Every now and then, there is a “can’t miss” movie. “Going in Style” is one of them, but finds a way to miss anyway, ugh! Remaking the charming 1979 movie featuring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, inventive director Zach Braff delivers an all-star cast to reboot this amusing story of three grumpy old men robbing a bank.
Academy Award winners Sir Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin are joined by Academy nominees Ann-Margret and Matt Dillon. To top it off, this revised screenplay was written by Theodore Melfi, fresh from the critically acclaimed “Hidden Figures.” The movie is somewhat entertaining, but mostly, much ado about nothing.
In fairness, if you are a fan of these stars, and who isn’t, it’s fun watching these iconic stars show up and interact with each other. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and their emotions are contagious. So, you will forgive most of the film’s many shortcomings, especially if you saw the original, which was more poignant and included some depth and complexity behind the humor and star power.
There’s nothing wrong with this round, but it just feels empty, due primarily to a weak script, and direction that lacks subtlety and restraint. The profundity is replaced with silly slapstick that has its moments, but is mostly absurd, and not in a good way. The idea is to laugh with these octogenarians, not necessarily at them.
The average age of the three lead characters is 82, and from our view in the back of the theater, the audience heads were adorned with about fifty shades of gray. The social commentary is directed mostly at senior citizens, but a feel-good movie with a theme of working class anger and vengeance can be universal.
Hard times have hit for Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin). Their finances are getting tight and Joe’s home is being foreclosed, but the final straw is when corporate greed steals their pension checks. With nothing left to lose, they decide to get their fair share, by stealing it from the bank that is foreclosing on Joe’s home and coordinating the corporate merger that dissolved their pension fund.
The challenge is these seniors don’t have much physical agility, don’t have a plan and don’t own a gun. In their test run, they get caught shoplifting some groceries from the local market. Along the way, Albert is pursued by the cashier; none other than the 75-year old Ann-Margret, who by the way, is still gorgeous. But, this Academy nominee is reduced to her teenage “sex kitten” role. Grow up guys!
In between their impossible mission planning, veteran geezer Christopher Lloyd adds his own physical humor. BTW, wasn’t this guy old, even in “Back to the Future” (1985), over 30 years ago? After their plan is failing miserably, they hire Jesus (John Ortiz), a professional low-life, and begin to design the heist with craft and precision.
This is a predictable, feel-good sitcom with your favorite Hollywood uncles or grandpas, so it’s easy to watch. However, compared to its predecessor, it glosses over the darker emptiness of senior anxieties, and jumps right into the conclusions, action plan and silliness. Without the expected edge, it works at a certain level, but this cast and crew was capable of so much more than this mildly entertaining, yet forgettable film.
“Going in Style” is 96 minutes and rated PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material. We expected more, but it seems director Braff aimed low and achieved it. We liked the cast and the premise. After all, you’re never too old to get even. But next time, give these gifted and proven actors something more challenging to do.
For those that missed this at the theater, it should be available on DVD and cross-country flights in just a few weeks. As senior citizens, we do appreciate a story about the issues of growing old in America and how some situations force people into doing the unthinkable. But, for most seniors, the response for a tight solution is, “Depends.”
Ron’s Rating: C Leigh’s Rating: C