You’d have to be made of stone not to smile seeing Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin together on screen. And the idea of these three beloved Hollywood seniors planning and pulling off a bank heist, on paper at least, must have seemed too fool-proof to screw up: Grumpy Old Stick-up Men! But that’s exactly what director Zach Braff does in Going in Style—a lazy hash of cheap geezer gags and spoon-fed sentiment.
Caine, Freeman, and Arkin play Joe, Willie, and Albert—three Brooklyn retirees who find out that after 40 years of service at the steel mill, their pensions are being stopped thanks to corporate greed. They’re victims of predatory banks, unfeeling hospitals, and children too busy to keep in touch. They’re forgotten men, and Braff and his screenwriter Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) bend over backwards trying to tap into the same simmering middle-class anger that put Donald J. Trump into the oval office. Then one day, while Caine’s Joe is at the bank dealing with an unsympathetic loan officer who’s foreclosing on his home, a group of masked robbers with machine guns empty the registers. It all looks so easy. Joe thinks, Why not?
Going in Style is, of course, a remake of a 1979 comedy that starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg as a trio of old coots who decide to spice up their Geritol years by sticking up a bank in Groucho schnozzes. It’s a bittersweet, heartfelt, and very funny movie (go rent it instead of seeing this) mainly because the heist is almost beside the point. It’s more about the bedrock friendship between three lonely old men. It’s a character movie, not an action movie. And we’re always laughing with the characters, not at them and how old they are. In the new version, Joe, Willie, and Albert watch The Bachelorette and get really invested the outcome. They smoke pot with a gangster and get the munchies. They attempt a practice heist on a supermarket and get away on a motorized old-folks scooter. Ann-Margret even pops up as a horny, hot-to-trot grandma to lob lusty innuendos at Arkin. I kept waiting for someone to make a joke about the size of his prostate. Thankfully, it never came. C