Movie Review: Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Yacs here again with a movie review coming at you. This will be my second movie review featuring Elvis Presley. Viva Las Vegas is a favorite among Elvis fans and many people think that it is his best movie, or at least Top 5. I watched parts of this movie prior, but this is the first time that I have sat down and watched the entire thing. I wanted to see if it was truly one of his best or if it was a flub. I am more of a fan of his music, but it is interesting to see how he fared on the big screen in his numerous acting efforts. The film was shot in 1963, but it didn’t reach the big screen until May of 1964. Elvis was in the midst of his acting career and this film is one of his most famous.
Viva Las Vegas is centered around the first Las Vegas Grand Prix and Lucky Jackson’s (Elvis Presley) desire to win the big race. However, his race car doesn’t have the engine that it needs to be on a competitive level. He has the money ready to enter the race and buy a new engine, but an attractive pool instructor, Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret), takes his mind off the race and he accidentally loses all of his money in the hotel pool. Rusty feels bad for being partly responsible for Lucky losing his money, because she pushed him into the pool. Lucky tries to earn his money back as a waiter at the hotel and later enters and competes against Rusty in the hotel’s talent show. Lucky and his acquaintance/race competitor, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), basically begin their feud to compete not only in the race, but for Rusty’s love as well.
The biggest thing that reviewers mentioned about this movie is the outstanding chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret and I wouldn’t disagree, but there was something more to it. I already knew the backstory behind this, but it is worth mentioning if any of you don’t know about this. Out of all the films that Elvis was featured in, this was by far the one with the most controversy surrounding it. He and Swedish-born co-star, Ann-Margret had a real-life affair, well, very likely. Real-life tabloids began running stories of them getting secretly married, but those clearly weren’t true. For those of you that don’t know who Ann-Margret is, she was considered the female version of Elvis in the early 1960’s. She had a very successful career in show business, but she didn’t quite live up to that hype. At the time however, she was one of the biggest female stars in Hollywood and I think it was accurate to say in 1963/64 that she was the female equivalent to Elvis. Despite showing great on-screen chemistry, I thought the film’s story wasn’t good. After watching the movie, I did a little research and it turns out that the movie didn’t have a script up until the last minutes. It was written and the story was completely changed in 11 days and it shows. There was very little thought behind the premise of the storyline.
The first Elvis film that I reviewed was Love Me Tender and it was Presley’s acting debut. Viva Las Vegas was shot 7 years after his debut and you can tell he was a lot more confident in his acting abilities. Despite only 8 years separating the opening of his debut and this film, it was his 15th movie appearance, which is absolutely insane. He didn’t produce music other than what was in his movies for the majority of the 60’s, but still, he was way overused. The Beatles were starting to become megastars and Elvis was sort of pushed to the side. Elvis was simply seen by the public too much and The Beatles were something new, but at the time it was a crisis for King of Rock and Roll. Viva Las Vegas featured a great deal of music within the film, but there wasn’t a full official soundtrack released for it. Most of the songs were either released later on other albums or featured in the expansion that was released in 2010.
Overall, for what it was, I thought it was decent. Not really good, but decent. I didn’t care for the story and some things really didn’t make sense throughout the film, but again, for what it was, it didn’t really matter. It wasn’t meant to be an Oscar-winning film. It was meant to be a fun film featuring Elvis Presley and rising star, Ann-Margret. Although I thought their chemistry was great, Ann-Margret was the star of this film in my opinion. It was rare that Elvis ever got overshadowed by anyone, but I think this was a rare instance. The film was very corny, but for the most part, I think the intentions were good. One thing that i thought was very impressive, was the amount of unedited scenes in this film. It is truly a credit to acting abilities of those in the film. I can’t say if this was one of Presley’s best movies, but based on what I’ve seen so far, it probably was a Top 5 film for him. Looking back from a critical standpoint, I think I liked Love Me Tender better and if I were to rewrite the review for Love Me Tender, I believe I would give it a better rating. Viva Las Vegas grossed nearly $9.5 million and the film was produced for about $1 million, which was a huge profit during the 60’s. For a film that was in a Las Vegas setting, it was a calm film. It should be a safe viewing experience for viewers aged 10 and above.