REVIEW: The Last Laugh (2019)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of The Last Laugh — Directed by Greg Pritkin

Greg Pritkin’s Netflix film, The Last Laugh, which is dedicated to the late filmmaker Paul Mazursky, follows Al Hart (played by Chevy Chase), an elderly man who used to be the manager of comedians, as he somewhat reluctantly agrees to stay at the retirement home ‘Palm Sunshine.’ At the retirement home, he meets his old client Buddy Green (played by Richard Dreyfuss), with whom it is decided that he must go on tour in an effort to stay alive and realize a dream.

You may think that a road trip comedy about two old-timers raging against the dying of the light would not have a gentle, unhurried pace, but, in this case, you would be wrong to assume so. Though this film is about staying alive and about making something unattainable real before it is too late, it takes a while before this film finds its footing, gets set and makes a 40-yard dash.

24-minutes of this 100-minute movie take place before Dreyfuss and Chase’s characters are on the road, and these minutes do not do a lot to convince you that this is worth sticking around for. There is an odd mismatch between some of the early humor, the La La Land-esque title-sequence font, the distracting musical compositions, and Chase’s performance.

Right before they started their impromptu comedy tour, I got the feeling that this might’ve worked better as a series in the vein of Grace and Frankie with the tone of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It looked like that kind of product.

The score themes are sometimes overly sentimental, but they are almost always distracting and ruinous for some potentially moving scenes. Pritkin fails to make Al Hart’s loneliness and directionless life sting as much as it could. His one scene by his wife’s resting place is somewhat unemotional, to an extent, due to the distracting music and the fact that it follows a failed cafe-interaction that was completely humorless.

During the early scenes at the retirement home, I was reminded of the much funnier and much better-executed scenes with Chevy Chase and the old students in Dan Harmon’s Community. Where Community‘s scenes with Chase, in a similar role where he was struggling with his age, were laugh-out-loud funny, these scenes were largely humorless and dull. To me, this initially felt more like a final goodbye than a worthwhile comedy — a last desperate attempt at relevance in the form of a comedy about staying alive.

But then something happened — it finally became the road movie it was promised to be. And though the distracting elements and the pacing issues were true for the entirety of the film, the film started to slowly come to life. The on-stage humor was, for the most part, charming in large part due to one of the central performances, and some of the tour locations were ripe for comedy.

Eventually, the film did bring a smile to my face despite itself, and Pritkin and Chase can thank Richard Dreyfuss for that. Unlike Chase who seemed rusty and out of it for the entirety of the film, Dreyfuss has an intense presence and an undeniable charm here.

As a comedy, it is very stale. Off-stage, there are really only three types of jokes in The Last Laugh, and they can be summarized like this: the elderly are inexperienced with drugs, the elderly are unable to use modern technology properly, and elderly men need a little help in the bedroom.

The only truly inspired part of The Last Laugh is the way the drug joke eventually results in a mushroom musical. If that sounds too bonkers to be true, then that may be enough to pique your interest. But one WTF-moment is not enough to save what is ultimately nothing more than a mediocre comedy tour film about life, work, and the dying of the light. But it did make me happy to see that Dreyfuss still has it. I just wish Chase, whose comedies I have a lot of love for, made more of an impression.

4.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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