"Vague" best describes LITTLE VEGAS, an inconsequential trifle that had the briefest acquaintance with theater screens before hitting cable TV and home video. Written and directed by performer Perry Lang, it's more like an actors' exercise than anything else, although those actors
provide tidbits of transient pleasure.
The picture opens with Carmine DeCarlo (Anthony John Denison) stumbling in the desert, dishevelled and wearing a dress. Speaking to the viewer, he goes into a let-me-tell-you--how-I-got-this-way routine that intros a slack story about how Carmine and his kid reside in a tiny Nevada trailer-park
community, on zero income. Once Carmine was a gigolo genuinely in love with wealthy matron Martha Branstein (Anne Francis), now deceased but seen in soft-edged flashbacks. Carmine still carries a torch for Martha's daughter, spacey and footloose Lexie (Catherine O'Hara), but she doesn't linger
long in any one place or relationship.
Meanwhile Martha's son Harvey (Bruce McGill) is a brash go-getter trying to bankroll a local casino. He envisions turning the town into "Little Vegas," a small copy of the gambling mecca. "It's my dream," goes Harvey's mantra. Sam (Jerry Stiller), the aged trailer-park owner, is a melancholy relic
of the original regime of mobsters who built up Las Vegas, and he wants nothing of the sort to spoil this tiny community. Carmine, meanwhile, is a recalcitrant exile from a New Jersey crime family who want him either back in the fold or dead. Occasionally his sharklike brother Frank (Michael
Nouri) shows up to harass him, in scenes with an undertone of potential violence that quickly sober up the dreamy narrative.
Mostly, however, LITTLE VEGAS, just ambles amiably along, a smart and soft diversion that's enjoyable until one realizes that nothing much is happening here and nothing much is going to happen. The ensemble cast of notable but less-than-top-drawer names do very well, with the exception of its
best-known player, Catherine O'Hara (BEETLEJUICE, HOME ALONE). She's supposed to be a footloose free spirit, but her underwritten role consists largely of smiling sweetly and vacantly. The remembered idyll between Carmine and Martha is a rare movie example of a warm older-woman/younger-man
pairing, beschmaltzed by syrupy music.
Ultimately Harvey learns Sam's been concealing Martha's fortune from him, and he beats the old man, accidentally killing him. Sam's will leaves the money and trailer park in safe hands with Carmine, although where Lexie chooses to remain isn't at all clear. So why was Carmine stumbling in the
desert, dishevelled and wearing a dress? To be absolutely honest ... I forget. LITTLE VEGAS is that low-key. (Violence, profanity, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: "Vague" best describes LITTLE VEGAS, an inconsequential trifle that had the briefest acquaintance with theater screens before hitting cable TV and home video. Written and directed by performer Perry Lang, it's more like an actors' exercise than anything el… (more)