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Misguided Remake of ‘Going in Style’ is Just a Product

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CHICAGO – In 1979, there was a beautifully understated film called “Going in Style,” taking on the issues of aging, loneliness and the forgotten senior citizens in society. Those issues have not altered in our modern society, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that with the 2017 remake of “Going in Style.”

The “oldsters” in this redux are Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman (who seems to be closing his career by making these “last act” movies), as opposed to George Burns, Lee Strasberg and Art Carney in the original. The new crew can’t hold a candle to the old, not because of any acting chops, but because of the situation that screenwriter Theodore Melfi and director Zach Braff puts them in. Instead of an exploration of aging in America – filtered through three old guys robbing a bank – this is just another superhero movie, where the crew knows more than anyone, and gets away with everything. Add in cute kids, coy sentiment and old people stereotypes (at least Christopher Lloyd is working), and this remade story has no style.

Joe (Michael Caine), Albert (Alan Arkin) and Willie (Morgan Freeman) are friends in Brooklyn, and are retired on pensions from the same steel company. The rug is pulled from them when the pensions are rescinded when the company is sold, and the bank that is dissolving the pension fund is the same one that the three pals use as customers.

Albert (Alan Arkin), Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Joe (Michael Caine) in ‘Going in Style’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

After witnessing a robbery at the same bank, Joe comes up with the idea to do a heist themselves, to save his home. They get help from Jesus (John Ortiz) and plan an elaborate ruse. At the same time, Albert is being wooed by Annie (Ann-Margret) and Joe is trying to get his ex son-in-law back into his granddaughter’s life. Suddenly these old guys have a lot to do.

And that is the most stark contrast between the 1979 film and the remake. The new old crew have plenty of family and plenty to do, and makes no real statement about aging – which was the entire point and theme of the original. The remake wants to make their old crew like gods, and create comedy from wacky scooter chases, old men having sex, dope smoking and pants-pissing bank managers. Screenwriter Theodore Melfi did the same thing in his story/direction of “St. Vincent” (with Bill Murray) a few years back, by trivializing the issues of Murray’s later-in-life curmudgeon.

The lead actors are fine, and admired, but the remake doesn’t have the same solid material or themes as the original. Freeman and Arkin are kind of in the background anyway, with Michael Caine having the only interesting repercussion – but that had nothing to do with being old, just getting his son-in-law back to his family. Steady character actor Matt Dillon is wasted as the lead detective in the robbery, and with the evidence that the old bandits leave behind, can be characterized as one of the stupidest investigators in NYPD history. And why is the classic movie star Ann-Margret always the go-to as an old man seductress, as she was in “Grumpy Old Men”? She wants to work, I suppose.

That’s Funny? Old Guys Riding Scooters in ‘Going in Style’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

I hate to keep going back to the 1979 original film, but it really needs to be seen as a comparison – that film created an authentic situation, as compared to contriving a situation in the remake. Take, for example, the masks that each crew uses. In the ’79 film, the old guys wears “Groucho glasses”… which the bank being robbed doesn’t take seriously, which makes them even more vulnerable. In the remake, they use masks of the “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.). First, are these masks even available in reality, and second, why would anyone get that specific when planning a bank robbery? Obviously, it was an attempt at another cheap laugh, because the robbers are “old.”

The point of this film is formula, to market a movie experience with the right stars in an easy-to-digest comedy. If these familiar performers truly wanted to “go in style,” they might have used their clout to rewrite the script back to the original situations and theme, to make a more cogent statement about being old in America. But in the marketplace of the current movie scene, talking about aging – they think – doesn’t sell tickets.

“Going in Style” opens everywhere on April 7th. Featuring Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd and Matt Dillon. Screenplay adapted by Theodore Melfi, based on the 1979 Martin Brest screenplay and a story by Edward Cannon. Directed by Zach Braff. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2017 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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