To quote myself from my Beauty and the Beast review, “I realize I am not the intended audience for this film.” The difference with Going in Style is that I should be. Just because the average age of its three stars (Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine) is 82 doesn’t mean that non-octogenarians can’t still enjoy a good old-guy comedy. The problem is Going in Style does everything possible to prove that wrong. I’d say the average age of the audience at the screening was 118 and they all loved it. My 38-year old self found it…somewhat amusing.
The obvious comparison to Going in Style is Grumpy Old Men. I was 14-years old when that movie came out and it slayed me. Maybe that movie was also specifically targeting old people, but it worked for everyone for two reasons – great comedic actors and great writing. Going in Style has one great comedic actor (Arkin) and is a remake of a 1979 film of the same name. I think somewhat amusing is probably an overachievement.
(SPOILERS coming for everyone of all ages.)
It’s amusing that a motorized shopping cart carrying two grown men can outrun a cop.
The main problem with Going in Style is that it takes itself way too seriously. The film begins with Michael Caine going to his bank to find out why his mortgage payment has skyrocketed, finding out his pension checks stopped coming months earlier, being told he’ll be in foreclosure soon, then forced to lay on the floor as the bank is robbed. A few minutes later, he and his two pals (Arkin and Freeman) find out that the steel company they worked for was purchased by another company that has terminated the pension. I know – hilarious, right? Wrong. In case you are wondering, the original film featured three old guys who were bored and simply decided to rob a bank because they thought it would be fun. Now, which of those movies do you think is funnier?
After a while, it finally realizes that it’s supposed to be a comedy and a few funny things happen or are said here and there. When the three of them finally agree to rob Caine’s bank (which they decide on because the bank is somehow profiting off of the pension money), the movie forgets about the ominous stakes (Caine losing his house, which would also put his daughter and granddaughter out on the street) and gives us a training montage followed by a practice run where they attempt to shoplift from a grocery store. At this point, the old people in the audience were cackling in delight while I chuckled every now and then because, again, somewhat amused.
After those two scenes, the movie shifts into heist mode and all but stops being funny at any level. There aren’t any noteworthy hijinks, but there are a handful of decent lines that remind you that this movie has no soul. This is painfully obvious whenever Matt Dillon shows up on screen to suck the life out of everything, as he apparently thought he was in an episode of Law & Order: SVU (to be fair, the script made him do it). Equally as unfunny is every scene regarding Freeman’s kidney failure, including having some sort of attack in front of a little girl in the bank during their robbery. It’s almost as if director Zach Braff and writer Theodore Melfi were trying to tell the audience “here’s a few laughs; they might be your last.”
In case you didn’t think the main plot and kidney side-plot were depressing enough, Caine’s ex-son-in-law is a deadbeat dad who gets more than one lecture from Caine. Plus, there’s a ham-fisted sex subplot featuring Arkin and Ann-Margret, where Arkin rebuffs her sexual advances for a while, then jumps in the sack with her when she confirms that she doesn’t want a relationship, just sex. There’s no actual comedy, but the audience is supposed to laugh because old-person sex is gross. It also doesn’t help that the once-gorgeous Ann-Margret has a Botox face that makes her look like she is storing a sideways Dorito in her upper lip (possibly the most depressing part of this entire affair).
The crux of the problems with this movie is a combination of unfunny writing and poor casting decisions. I’m not saying Freeman and Caine are bad actors, I’m saying they’re not comedic actors. Had the writing been worth a damn, I’m sure they would have delivered a lot of laughs, but Arkin is the only true comedian here (well, Christopher Lloyd too, but his role in this film was too small to make a difference) who can riff and ad-lib to improve the script. The others can only work with what they have and what they had was merely somewhat amusing. Or as 118-year olds would say, the funniest thing since sliced bread.
Rating: Ask for $7.50 back or just go watch the original.