‘Last Flag Flying’ at half-staff (review)

November 21, 2017

‘Last Flag Flying’ at half-staff (review)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Production notes for “Last Flag Flying” say that it is a sequel to the 1973 film “The Last Detail,” directed by Hal Ashby and starring Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid. Both were based on novels by Darryl Ponicsan, who co-wrote the “Last Flag” script with director Richard Linklater.

Does it matter that a film is a sequel to a movie that is 44 years old and most audiences won’t remember anyway? Not really. It hardly bears mentioning.

“Last Flag Flying” is a buddy movie, wrapped in a road-trip movie, inside an anti-war movie. Larry (Steve Carell), Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Richard (Laurence Fishburne) were pals back in Vietnam. They are bound to one another for an incident in which Larry took the fall and wound up doing some time in the brig. But that was a long time ago.

Flash to the present. Larry is collecting his old pals, whom he hasn’t seen in ages, in the hope that they can accompany him to the funeral of his son, who died as a Marine in Iraq.

Some things have changed. Some haven’t.

Sal is still a hard-drinking smart aleck who now owns a dive bar in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t even recognize Larry when he shows up. Richard, who went by the name “The Mauler” in Nam, is now a married, born-again gospel preacher. He is also a professional buzzkill.

Sal and Richard agree to go with Larry to attend his son’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Once there, they get into argument with the ramrod officer in charge and decide to take the body back to Larry’s hometown in Maine.

Thus, begins the road movie with the three amigos. Larry is the grieving dad. Sal is the profane cut-up. Richard is the sinner-turned-saint. Given their respective and well-defined roles, the dialogue is rather predictable. So are the “hijinks” they get up to along the way. They even buy these newfangled things called mobile phones. Wacky.

They begin with a rental truck for the casket and then transfer it to a train that takes them through Boston and New York City. The heavy lifting falls to Cranston’s Sal, as he must keep things percolating with outrageous behavior.

He does the best he can to keep things lively, but eventually even Sal begins to sag and flag under the weight of cinematic expectations. The trio ultimately becomes tiresome long before the emotional big finish.

Talk about no country for old men.


Last Flag Flying

Who: With Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Cicely Tyson, Yul Vasques, and Samuel Davis. Directed by Richard Linklater.

Rated: R.

Running time: 124 minutes.

Opens: Opens Wednesday.

Where: Area theaters.

Grade: C+

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.