A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fluffy escapism could pretty much be an advertisement for Las Vegas and the good times Nevada's tourist destination offers, including betting, drinking, and dangerous race-car driving. It's all pretty much harmless here -- if there were such things as topless showgirls, gambling addiction, and legal bordellos you'd never know it from watching this movie.
What's the story?
Race driver Lucky Jackson (Presley) needs an engine overhaul before he and his "baby blue" car can compete in the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He wins big at the casinos -- only to lose his bankroll down a swimming pool drain when he's pushed into the water by the casino's sexy pool manager, Rusty Martin (Ann-Margaret). Without money, Lucky has to go to work at the casino to pay off his tab, and he looks for another way to get his car into racing shape. Meanwhile, Elvis pursues Rusty, and he's not alone. A wealthy, smug Italian Count Elmo Cancini (Cesar Danova) is in town to compete in the championship race and for the girl. Rusty is smitten with Lucky, but she vacillates toward the Count when she feels Lucky is more in love with his car than with her.
Is it any good?
Kids of the 21st century who were turned on to Elvis Presley with Disney's Lilo and Stitch should enjoy this boy-who-happens-to-be-Elvis-meets-girl story. It's the usual lightweight, fluffy affair from the music sensation, but this Elvis movie formula really works in VIVA LAS VEGAS.
Along the way to the predictable happy ending viewers see Elvis and Ann-Margaret enjoying just about every postcard thrill tourists could have in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s, including water-skiing on Lake Powell. It does seem a lot like a big promo for the vacation destination, though few promos have ever been so "lucky" to showcase musical numbers like this one -- the title tune became pretty much the anthem for the city. Ann-Margaret's playfully sexy song-and-dance turns are every bit as good as Presley's, and some critics have said that's why the movie works so well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the attitude Lucky has toward his competitor, the mildly snooty Count Cancini. They are rivals both for the racing championship and the lovely girl, but instead of being enemies they get along like best pals. Why don't more movies show this kind of chivalrous sportsmanship? Some critics think this is the only musical in which Elvis was matched with a leading-lady love interest who could equal him in charisma and brazen charm. Do you find the Ann-Margaret character on equal footing with the hero, or a fantasy girl typical of Elvis pictures? How does this compare to light musical fare kids watch today, like High School Musical?