It just feels good to watch Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin interact, even if the story in their new “Going in Style,” feels familiar, forced and a bit muddled. These charming veteran actors fill the screen with their palpable personalities, and we are the luckier for it. Director Zach Braff’s “Going in Style” plays primarily as a comedy, but the movie's themes are far more serious than that. There is the realization that old age happens, nothing is guaranteed and that friendship and family may be all we can really count on. Ultimately, it is this engaging cast and their notable talent and timing that make the movie a gem.
Yet another remake, sort of, “Going in Style” is loosely based on a 1979 George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg film of the same title, but it doesn’t feel quite as clever. The plot unfolds with a transparency that makes the film flounder. The trio, former coworkers, longtime buddies and Brooklyn neighbors Willie (Freeman), Joe (Caine) and Al (Arkin) lose their pensions from years of working as steelworkers. Broke and still ready to live a little, they scheme to steal from the bank that robbed them of their retirement checks. Going in Style is predictable from beginning to end and is riddled with holes big enough to drive a get-away van through, but it is still enjoyable and entertaining.
Any of the film’s faults should fall on Braff and more so on screenwriter Ted Melfim’s lackluster script and not on Freeman, Caine, and Arkin or the sound ensemble cast. Thankfully, these fellows demonstrate a carefree ease with their crisp chemistry and silly banter and sillier antics. Smaller roles, by wild-eyed Christopher Lloyd and the still sexy, Ann-Margaret and the much younger Matt Dillon and John Ortiz, make the film even more amusing. Joey King, as Joe’s granddaughter, brings a fresh, youthful and loving take on relationships to the story. Her character’s living situation and her relationship with her estranged father add yet another element to a film filled with messages about accepting responsibility, respecting the elderly, growing old, facing death and living life to the fullest. The storyline also touches on current issues with the cost of living and the shakiness of social security and precariousness of pensions. These are weighty issues for a comedy, but Braff manages to weave them in with a light enough hand.
Freeman, Caine, and Arkin deserve these roles and many more to come. There is a wonderful scene where Willie, Joe and Al, drunk on too much champagne, sing and stumble their way down the street that I wish had taken longer and hilarious, well-timed jokes about getting old and all that entails. These guys are delectable, delicious and delightful – I wanted to hug them all and eat them up. I am placing a “B-“ in the grade book. “Going in Style” is not going to win any awards, but the trio should, but then they have in their long careers. I’d just like to see them together again sooner than later.