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13 Apr 2017

You'll Feel Robbed: 'Going in Style' Relies Simply on Star Power—and It's Unwatchable as a Result

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Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin in Going in Style. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin in Going in Style.

I recently bitched about the Beauty and the Beast remake being unnecessary. However, the movie was enjoyable and sweet on some levels. Then came the Ghost in the Shell remake; while it was a letdown, it looked good and had decent performances.

Now comes another remake, Going in Style—and there are no redeeming qualities: It’s a total disaster.

The original “old guys rob a bank wearing rubber noses” comedy from back in 1979 starred George Burns and Art Carney. The original was directed by Martin Brest, the guy who would go on to direct Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and, uh oh, Gigli. Martin Brest … where are you? Yes, Gigli sucked an awful lot, but you had a decent batting average until then. You haven’t done anything since bombing with Gigli, but that film didn’t kill Ben Affleck’s career, so why did it knock you off?

Back on point … this Going in Style remake loses all of the charm of that fun and slightly dark Burns vehicle. Instead, the film is super heavy on schmaltz, and it asks a lot of beloved actors to basically embarrass themselves for 90-plus minutes.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin replace Burns, Carney and Lee Strasberg in the updated story, and that setup probably looked pretty good on paper. Unfortunately, they handed the film to Zach Braff, the guy from Scrubs, to direct. Braff does so with all the subtlety and nuance of an M80 going off in a candlelight-yoga class.

The comedic moments demand that you laugh … yet you don’t. The touching moments grab you by the collar and scream, “Cry for me!” … yet you don’t. The heist itself insists that it is clever; it’s actually rather rote and mundane. The payoff involves a little girl doing something totally wrong, and it feels weird.

Michael Caine replaces Burns as Joe, the brains of the group. Joe, during a visit to a bank to complain about his upcoming foreclosure, witnesses a bank robbery. So, naturally, when he and his pals’ pensions go away, he decides to rob a bank.

After some gentle persuading of Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin), off they go to rob a bank. The big twist here is that they wear Rat Pack masks instead of the rubber-nose glasses from the original. Yes, that’s the biggest twist the film has to offer.

The heist itself just sort of happens. Braff shows some of the planning and execution in flashbacks, but the technique doesn’t reveal as anything ingenious. The whole beauty of Going in Style 1979 was that three old men simply robbed a bank—rather sloppily. Trying to make them seasoned, crafty pros in this one is a major misstep.

Ann-Margret is around to sleep with Albert (the grumpy one) and make him feel young again. That’s Ann-Margret’s job these days: She gets the “sleep with the old guy” roles, like she had in Grumpy Old Men. The way her character aggressively pursues Albert while she’s on the clock in the produce aisle should have gotten her character fired. It’s hard watching a great, fun actress being reduced to a stereotype—that stereotype being the older lady who tries to grab your junk by the avocados.

All of the dark, twisted fun has been taken out of the premise, and replaced by mawkish sentimentality. Caine, Freeman, Arkin and Ann-Margret are lost in a screenplay that doesn’t have any inventiveness; the film simply tries to get by on their star power. It’s not befitting of their legendary statuses.

The movie is a real bummer—a blue paint bomb in a bag full of money. The year 2017 is shaping up as the Year of the Unnecessary Remakes … and so far, this is the most unnecessary of them all.

Going in Style is playing at theaters across the valley.

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