Zach Braff’s Going in Style is a film that’s built upon little more than the reputations, talents and charms of its cast of well-respected leads, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin. It’s enough on its own to make this remake of Martin Brest’s film of the same name (which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg) passable — though wholly forgettable — entertainment. The cast (which also includes Ann-Margaret as Arkin’s love interest) is professional and charming enough that they could give just about any movie a modicum of entertainment value, which they certainly do here. Unfortunately, this is a movie that lacks ambition, as Going in Style sets a low bar for itself, never wanting to be more than perfectly fine.
The film has a sheen of topicality, as our three leads play noble retirees whose pensions are about to disappear from the steel mill they worked at for years. Plus, Joe’s (Caine’s) mortgage is out of control, Wille (Freeman) needs an organ transplant, and Albert (Arkin) is already on the verge of homelessness. Awash in sob stories and moral certitude, the trio decide to solve their various problems by robbing a bank and — because the film is generally toothless — only keeping what’s owed of their pensions and donating the rest to charity.
Going in Style‘s sole concern is goofy laughs, something that keeps the movie from having anything resembling true weightiness. There’s the possibility of ideas here, obviously — class consciousness, the lonesomeness and abandonment of aging — but the entire film is too flippant to ever approach these topics. Or maybe the fear was making the movie heavier than it needs to be, which is a valid concern since so many movies forget to be fun. But Going in Style also isn’t very entertaining on its own either, being a bit on the simple side, too often falling back on slapstick and a loud, frantic style of humor. The film shies away from anything resembling nuance, a disappointing turn for director Braff. As much as I disliked his Wish I Was Here (2014), there was at least an attempt at creativity and thought. Going in Style is pure work-for-hire schlock, but the kind of material a filmmaker a bit less resigned could’ve done something with.
This is, in the end, pure pap, a cold fact that keeps the film from being anything more than disposable and ephemeral. With its underpinnings of everyman woes, the movie is played far too broadly to have any true power. There’s only ever silliness when there at least needs to be a modicum of intelligence. The only plus is a cast of actors who could pull off these roles in their sleep — and almost do. It’s the kind of thing where everyone deserves a bit better, honestly, including the audience. Rated PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material. Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.