Greg Pritikin’s “The Last Laugh,” on Netflix, is a transparent attempt to do for Chevy Chase what “The Hero” did for Sam Elliott, or “The Last Movie Star” for Burt Reynolds, or “Hello My Name Is Doris” for Sally Field: It places an aging star at the center of a low-budget, character-driven indie and reminds us of his gifts.
And Chase here works overtime: He does schtick, plays dramatic beats, romances Andie MacDowell, even sings and plays jazz piano.
But he doesn’t really have the chops for this kind of showcase — his earlier vehicles, while funny, never required him to be much of an actor. As Al Hart, a retired agent for stand-up comics who takes his very first client (Richard Dreyfuss) on the road for one last tour, Chase mostly engages in his trademark mugging, while his earnest moments are smothered by the clumsiness of the filmmaking.
Photographed, edited and directed with the minimal competency of an 1980s TV movie, with every scene slathered in a pushy, secondhand musical score (lest we’re ever left to decide how to feel about any of its events for ourselves), “The Last Laugh” is also hobbled by the weakness that has plagued stand-up narratives from “Punchline” to “The Comedian”: all the onstage material, whether intended to be bad or brilliant, simply isn’t funny.
The picture’s single saving grace is Chase’s co-star Dreyfuss, who deploys all of his considerable charisma. He shines, but not brightly enough to bring this moribund project to life.