Amidst a barrage of superhero and loud action films, “Going in Style” (Warner, $35.99, Aug. 1, 2017) offers a refreshing respite of charming amusement provided by some of our most treasured actors.
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin star in this remake of the 1979 film about three elderly lifelong buddies in Brooklyn who decide to regain control of their lives by robbing a bank.
Ann-Margret looks great and is still fun and convincing at age 75 as a sexy seductress of Arkin’s curmudgeonly Al character – coming on to him each time he goes to the grocery store where she works.
Christopher Lloyd (Dr. Brown in “Back to the Future”) offers a laugh as an eccentric friend and it’s good to see Matt Dillon again even if it’s in his usual role as a humorless character we despise.
Keenan Thompson has a couple well-played funny scenes as the sympathetic manager of the grocery store where Joe (Caine) and Willie (Freeman) bungle the theft of some vegetables, and Joey King is notable in the role of Joe’s adoring granddaughter.
In his first major directing gig, actor Zach Braff (“Scrubs” TV series) could easily have driven this movie off the rails with over-the-top scenes of absurdity but, with the exception of a couple of plausibility-straining moments, gratefully maintains a restrained approach to the unlikely premise, allowing the viewer to simply go along for the ride .
All three men are already cutting corners by saving coupons and two of them sharing an apartment to keep expenses within their budgets when they learn that their meager pensions are being cut off by the factory where they once worked moving operations to a different country. Caine’s Joe character will be hit the hardest and most quickly since his bank will take over his home in 30 days. It’s Joe who concocts the idea of robbing his own bank after he witnesses firsthand how easy it seems to do.
From here the movie nicely blends a series of scenes showing the trio training for the big heist while Joe and Willie (Freeman) keeps tabs on their beloved grandchildren and Al reluctantly succumbs to the advances of Annie (Ann-Margret).
Braff provides a solo running commentary as an optional audio track during the movie, but there is disappointingly few amusing or insightful anecdotes short of Braff noting his parents in the background of the last scene. Otherwise he’s mostly saying how much he liked each scene and praising the participants.
As is often the case with modern remakes, the original under-noticed version of this well-reviewed movie that starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg is more subtle, nuanced, and, in addition to good moments of humor, offers several genuine and touching moments relating to these men dealing with the challenges of growing old. There is far more story following the robbery, with the 1979 version playing out more realistically, more cleverly, and ultimately more poignantly.
Nonetheless, the new “Going in Style” is a modern treat.
— By Scott Hettrick