A biting 1970s comedy about aging becomes something soft to chew in Zach Braff's Going in Style, a remake with better reasons to exist if he'd explore them.
Times are tighter for seniors today than when the late George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg played geriatric bank robbers fixing their incomes. An even more impressive trio of Oscar winning seniors — Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin — deserve material equally honest, unconcerned with bogus fluff and feels.
The essential plot remains: Three financially strapped retirees rob a bank to make ends meet. Braff and screenwriter Theodore Melfi stretch to relate with a younger audience by having Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Al (Arkin) work at a factory being closed and moved overseas, eliminating everyone's pension.
Making matters worse, Joe's home is in foreclosure. During a bank visit to ask mercy the place gets robbed, inspiring the trio to plan a clockwork heist in disguise. From there, any resemblances seem coincidental.
Nobody dies in the new, unimproved Going in Style. Oh, you'll think someone might, but Braff and Melfi won't let sorrow happen on their watch, not when an incredible "out" exists.
Neither will they allow the main characters to be truly lonely with few living relatives, none caring. Stealing a fortune isn't always what it's cracked up to be. Harsh realities bore comedy in the original; the remake seldom rings as true.
Now there must be not one but two adored grandchildren heavily figuring into the plot, an errant son-in-law to straighten out and the always crowd pleasing sex-after-70 schtick. An old woman drops an f-bomb. Old men smoke marijuana and get the munchies. Christopher Lloyd does Reverend Jim with dementia. Grocery shoplifting is added as bank robbery practice, allowing a distinguished actor to shove ham in his pants. At times Going in Style plays like a gray rights protest waiting to happen.
Yet throughout the movie Caine, Freeman and Arkin prove for the countless time what kind of professionals they are. I can imagine how these seen-it-all legends would grumble between takes, dismissing Melfi's screenplay as rubbish, perhaps not even having much to do with each other. When the camera rolls it's magic, a chemistry made instantly believable by sheer experience. Bad movies can reveal more about actors than great ones. Going in Style should confirm Caine, Freeman and Arkin as legends.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.