Going in Style (1979)

Going-in-Style-Movie-rev Going in Style  (2017)    Warner Bros./Comedy    RT: 96 minutes    Rated PG-13 (drug content, language, some suggestive material)    Director: Zach Braff    Screenplay: Theodore Melfi    Music: Rob Simonsen    Cinematography: Rodney Charters    Release date: April 7, 2017 (US)    Cast: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Joey King, Christopher Lloyd, John Ortiz, Matt Dillon, Kenan Thompson, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Maria Dizzia, Peter Serafinowicz, Josh Pais, Camiel Warren-Taylor, Ashley Aufderheide, Annabelle Chow, Jeremy Shinder.

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 There are three kinds of remakes: the good (The Thing, The Magnificent Seven), the bad (Psycho, Arthur) and the unnecessary (Poltergeist, Ghostbusters). Going in Style fits right into the third category. It’s a remake of the 1979 comedy caper starring George Burns, Art Carney and Less Strasberg as three old pals who decide to rob a bank just for the hell of it. It gets boring sitting on the same park bench each day feeding the pigeons and talking about the good old days. Why not rob a bank? What do they have to lose? They’re probably going to die soon anyway. Why not go out with a bang? In this new version, directed by Zach Braff (Garden State), there are greater reasons for the three geezers to risk spending their remaining years behind bars.

 going-in-styleThe new Going in Style stars Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) as three seniors who decide to strike back at the system that screwed them over one too many times. The bank is about to foreclose on Joe’s (Caine) house that he shares with his divorcee daughter (Dizzia, last year’s biopic Christine) and granddaughter (King, Wish I Was Here). Willie (Freeman) will die unless he receives a new kidney, a secret he keeps from his friends. He lives with Al (Arkin), a former jazz musician forced to teach sax to untalented kids in order to make ends meet. The final straw is when they learn the steel company where they worked for 30 years is shutting down their US operation and cancelling everybody’s pension. They are totally screwed unless they take drastic action.

 It’s Joe who comes up with the idea to rob the same bank that tripled his mortgage and controls their former company’s pension money. In fact, he’s in the bank when a big robbery goes down. He observes how efficiently it’s orchestrated and executed. It takes some persuasion but he manages to get Willie and Al on board. All they need is the right teacher and the perfect plan to pull a successful heist that will solve all their money problems.

 Braff tries to make his Going in Style more relevant to our time period by touching on issues like predatory lending, pension fraud and the health-care system but never explores them with any great depth. Instead, he goes for comic schtick which is all well and good since not every movie has to have gravitas. It’s an amusing little comedy that wisely avoids cheap jokes about incontinence and Viagra in favor of slapstick and comical supporting characters like the crazy-senile old man played by Christopher Lloyd. His character could very easily be an older version of his Reverend Jim character from the sitcom Taxi.

 Going in Style has a decent supporting cast that also includes Ann-Margret (Grumpy Old Men) as Al’s love interest and Matt Dillon (There’s Something About Mary) as the FBI agent on the case. However, it’s the three main actors that make this remake worth seeing. They deliver good individual performances and have great chemistry together. They play off of each other so well. There’s a reason they all won Oscars (Caine has two). Arkin is a master kvetcher and proves it once again here. Caine is as likable as ever as an old man worried more about what losing his home will do to his daughter and granddaughter. He even gets his ex-son-in-law (Serafinowicz, Shaun of the Dead), the proprietor of a marijuana shop, to step up and be a man in case he ends up going to jail. Freeman is always good even if the material isn’t terribly strong which is the case with Going in Style.

 I like the original version better, that goes without saying. The director of that one, Martin Brest, deftly balanced the funny and the melancholy. Also, the teaming of Burns, Carney and Strasberg was magic. That’s not to say the casting of Caine, Freeman and Arkin isn’t good. It is but doesn’t feel quite as inspired. Also, the drama in this new version is clumsily handled. It gives an otherwise light-hearted comic caper a somewhat awkward feel. The heist itself is handled well but I’ve seen better. I got a good laugh out of the guys watching Dog Day Afternoon on TV; one of them suggests they not watch the end as if it might jinx their own robbery. I laughed a few times during Going in Style. It has its fair share of funny bits. In the end, it makes for pleasant, agreeable entertainment, nothing more. It’s enjoyable but hardly memorable. 

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