Hot Take: A light, mildly entertaining remake of a darker, mildly entertaining 1979 comedy.
Sometimes it is refreshing when a movie is exactly what you expect. Going in Style, the remake of the 1979 George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg heist comedy of the same name, is exactly what you expect. Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, this 2017 update goes in a very different direction than the original. It’s more righteous and seemingly draws more influence from last year’s Hell or High Water than the original Going in Style, at times.
The premise of the original Going in Style revolved around three seniors who decide to stick up a bank essentially because they are bored and having nothing to lose. If they are successful, they have money. If they get caught, they have a place to live and three meals a day because prison is such a nifty place. It’s actually a pretty bitter picture and has a grim view of growing old. The update has a little bit of that bitterness but its redirected at the banks as Joe (Michael Caine) is about to lose his house thanks to an interest rate hike and the discontinuation of his pension. His friends — Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Al (Alan Arkin) — are also impacted by the discontinuation of the pension and anger pushes them down the path of robbing the bank.
Essentially, director Zach Braff chooses a more easygoing path. The movie is lighthearted despite its incendiary commentary on banks and the treatment of seniors. There’s a wry smile behind the entire film and watching three masters of their profession at work with Caine, Freeman and Arkin is a real treat. They really get along well and work off each other impressively which adds something genuine to the big screen friendship.
That being said, if you’ve watched the trailer, you’re going to be a little disappointed in how much is actually revealed. Also, this update is more Hollywood than the original. The 1979 comedy is actually kind of dark. This 2017 update is fluffier than a stack of pancakes. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s worth mentioning in case you’re walking in with thoughts of the original in your head. Considering the original was only a moderate box office success and is more of an afterthought, the remake can stand on its own because most people won’t be comparing it to the original in the first place.
On its own, thanks to the strength of the talent level of the three Academy Award winning stars, a decent supporting cast and another solid directorial effort from Braff, Going in Style is an adequate movie going experience. It’s not very meaty unless you count the scene where Freeman’s character shoves an entire pork loin down his pants. The biggest criticism would be that it feels like the film could be meatier and deliver an edgier story and since the original exists and did precisely that, it’s hard to not hold that against this defanged remake.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Triumphant Trio
Caine, Freeman and Arkin work incredibly well together. They make for a very likable trio.
- The Overshadowed Supporting Cast
The main characters have such a strong presence, the cavalcade of supporting performers get a little lost. From Christopher Lloyd’s great reactions to Ann Margaret’s sexy senior act to Matt Dillon’s dim witted detective to Kenan Thompson’s quick witted one liners, there are a number of enjoyable supporting performances.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Superficial Senior Games
It’s a little ironic that the original was more weighty than the remake since the original was about three seniors who decide to rob a bank on a whim while the remake veered down a path of self-righteous revenge against the banks that screwed them over. However, it’s the exact result achieved by Theodore Melfi’s script which is easily the least impact of his three screenwriting credits. (St. Vincent and Hidden Figures were his first two.)
- We Love Getting High Profile Actors High, Don’t We?
Now that marijuana is legal in a few states, shouldn’t the novelty of seeing an Award winning actor pretend to be high on screen wear off? No? Oh, maybe I’m the only one who thinks that way.