By: Larissa Couto
The Last Laugh starts with a commercial for a piece of paradise on Earth for those living the best part of their lives, but nothing like a “home.” Struggling to accept living in a place like that, Al Hart (Chevy Chase) wants to keep working as an agent when he encounters Buddy Green (Richard Dreyfuss), an old friend. Fifty years ago Green was about to reach a new level in his career as a comedian—appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show—but he abruptly changed his career to be a podiatrist in Beverly Hills. Green convinces Al that the “home” is great and they catch up on their friendship from where they left it. After a sad event, Green is convinced to go back to being a comedian—going on tour with Al from the West Coast to New York, with the goal of appearing on The Tonight Show.
The first segment of The Last Laugh has some funny jokes and the uncomfortable reminder that (even when surrounded by friends sharing the same references), danger and even death is always waiting around the corner. Al seems like the unique one to understand that there’s more than simply “waiting” during this “new season” of life. After Al convinces Green to return to comedy, they leave on a road trip that starts with Green throwing a watch out of the window, as if giving the middle finger to time. The trip is definitely full of surprises, like crossing the Mexico border to do stand-up in a club in Tijuana.
While Chevy Chase is good as his slightly awkward agent character (with some good comedic moments), Richard Dreyfuss isn’t completely persuasive as a very funny comedian who makes everyone laugh. Dreyfuss is known for his dramatic and intense roles: Jaws, for example. His delivery of jokes is not smooth and he truly seems like an uncle trying to entertain the family on Thanksgiving—not enough talent to make us believe the he’s a comedian who never lost the timing. As Al’s love interest, Andie MacDowell is a hippie who enters Al’s life to make him take off his shoes, enjoy life, and learn to be unafraid of losing control. Her acting skills are weak, which compromises the comedic intent of showing Chase and MacDowell as an almost teenager-y couple who have the same fears as a pair of 14-year-olds.
After eating mushrooms, Al starts to hallucinate. In this scene, we see Green singing about “finding your light.” Although the singing is far from good, the “light” metaphor Green is referencing is present throughout the movie. From the lights of the ambulance that raises tension and sadness, to the spotlight of the stage, to something more abstract like returning to your dream career in your eighties, “find your light” is the motto that helps Green find meaning in that moment when he gave up comedy all those years ago. The light that presents the moment of death and the one that allows you to see the ovation is the same: it’s your choice, after all. The Last Laugh is not a great comedy or an exciting road trip film, but it’s inspiring and feel-good.