First, this remake has been directed by Zach Braff (Garden State) without an iota of style. And second, it goes nowhere. At least nowhere that dozens of other comedies about lovably cranky senior citizens haven't already gone. Going in Style isn't so much a movie as a catalog of grumpy old clichés.
Once upon a time, no one made movies in which old farts gathered to do hokey things together. But then 1975, the year that gave us so much timeless cinema (Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, The Passenger, Nashville, Shampoo, The Stepford Wives, Barry Lyndon, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Rollerball and Three Days of the Condor, among others), also gave us The Sunshine Boys.
You remember The Sunshine Boys, right? Of course you don't. Odds are you hadn't been born. George Burns and Walter Matthau played a pair of retired vaudevillians who decide to reunite before it's too late. Here's how much concepts of aging have changed in four decades: When Matthau played the role of a crotchety old comic, he was 55. Tom Cruise will turn 55 this July. That was old then!
The movie was a hit, and Hollywood smelled blood. Or Geritol, at any rate. The result was the original Going in Style, released in 1979. This time the codger count was bumped up to three (George Burns, Lee Strasberg and Art Carney). The premise is that three old friends who are barely getting by on Social Security decide to rob a bank and live a little before it's too late. Carney was 61, younger than Jerry Seinfeld is today.
Well, you know Hollywood: Imitation is the sincerest form of easy money. An entire genre has emerged, and comedies about old guys getting together for one zany reason or another have become standard fare. The Maiden Heist (2009). Stand Up Guys (2012). The whole Expendables franchise, for that matter. Morgan Freeman has made a cottage industry out of these things in geezer pleasers such as The Bucket List (2007), Thick as Thieves (2009), Red (2010), Last Vegas (2013) and now this dead-from-the-neck-up retread.
Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Freeman. You could practically sell tickets on the goodwill generated by those names alone. Which is pretty much what Braff and screenwriter Theodore Melfi attempt here. Virtually all they've done to update the original Going in Style is miss its point.
That film was about the boredom of growing old in America. This one pretends to make a timely statement about corporate greed and crooked financial institutions. The old boys don't rob the bank because it'll be fun but because their pensions have been frozen as a result of the steel mill — where they worked all their lives — being sold to a foreign concern. It's The Big Short with Depends!
Plus cornball clichés such as grannies dropping F-bombs; a chase involving a motorized scooter; a principal character learning he needs a new kidney, stat; and, perhaps saddest of all, the appearance of Ann-Margret as a septuagenarian sex kitten. After all, the poor Oscar nominee has been here and done this as the sexy senior in the Grumpy Old Men series. I found it all borderline demeaning.
Going in Style is that most irksome, instantly forgettable of films — a remake that fails to make the case for not leaving well enough alone. It also fails to offer its cast material worthy of its talent, or to add anything remotely new to a cinematic form that long ago got old.