In Zach Braff's third feature length directorial effort, be prepared for everything Cautious! Safe! Probably like six laughs!!!
1979 effort Going In Style is often still remembered to this day as being the scrappy American fable of old age its timidity and low-shooting comedy allowed for. George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg play a few disillusioned old fogies, spurred to rob a bank to overturn the unending sense of futility and boredom plaguing their golden years. For these brittle kooks, the motivation to pull a bank heist rests importantly in its lack of motivation.
Zach Braff’s remake (known probably still for his acting credit as JD from TV show Scrubs), for whatever reason green lit, tries its hand at something a little deeper. Perhaps an attempt to create meaningful characters, or something a little more satirical from its source material, Braff’s remake stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as the three grey-haired fogies who plan a bank robbery after being hit with multiple financial infractions, and are faced with both their own woeful economic misfortunes and the great darned injustice of the bank that’s left them out in the cold and taken their jackets as interest. And as much as the threefold combination of acting veterans Caine, Freeman and Arkin are exactly the golden oldies we want to see commit grand larceny, Going In Style’s attempt at depth or quirky commentary shoots wildly and misses completely. ‘But it’s allegorical!’ we hear Braff’s cry in the distance. It’s too late; the three geriatrics have already driven off with the tenner I spent on my cinema ticket, which earnt me a good six titters and half a smile as the credits rolled. Robbery, I say, complete fraudulence.
I am being overly harsh. This is, of course, a nice bit of Sunday afternoon entertainment; pop it on the TV when Netflix buys the rights to it in six months, probably, and you’ll be grand. There’s about ten minutes of good solid giggle-material about a third of the way through that you’ll be mildly pleased you stuck around for, if vaguely explained botched shoplifting scenes are your kind of thing. It’s not clever, but it’s not dumb comedy either. It’s just a little halfhearted. Whether that be from Braff’s direction, Theodore Melfi’s script, or the general shoehorning of unthreatening stakes and hackneyed motivations into a self-sustaining thin plot-line, I’m unsure. And also probably quite uninterested.
Freeman, Caine and Arkin make the most of what they have, unsurprisingly, whilst minor characters like Joe’s (Caine) granddaughter, Brooklyn (Joey King), her father Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz) and Al’s (Arkin) love-interest Annie (Ann-Margaret), pose potentially interesting sub-plots, they resist the swaying temptation to go into depth about or drag themselves out of frustrating stereotypes. In fact every inch of Going In Style plays it safe, including, more so than anything else, its emotional capacity, and goes as far as to make the original seem like an outrageously dauntless caper. It might draw a few modest audiences, but my sympathy goes to the film’s potential, which could have been so much more had it not reduced its narrative development to bumbling slush.
Going In Style, directed by Zach Braff, is distributed in the UK through Warner Bros. Pictures. Certificate 12a.