Read our movie review of Going in Style to hear about all the goofiness and grumpiness:Zach Braff’s 21st century remake of Going in Style is a relatively light comedy. It touches on issues of tampered pensions and economic hardship, but no more than required for staging a heist. It tries to extract tears from the plight of its protagonist, but only enough so that it doesn’t clash with the more bouncy humor. It has all the makings of a forgettable comedy, but thankfully has three elements to save this film from being a complete bore: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.
These three veteran actors are given material that is fairly basic and even a little contrived, but play through the lacking script as best as they can. Caine always puts 100% into his roles and this one is no exception as grandfather Joe, struggling to house his daughter and granddaughter in his foreclosed home. Morgan Freeman never falters in his comedic timing and playful nature as Willie, a man who wants to both see his long-distant family and afford a new kidney. Alan Arkin is in his iconically grumpy mode as the most reluctant of the trio Albert, refusing everything from compliments to sexual the advances of Annie (Ann-Margret).
Their arc of trying to rob a bank after having their factory jobs and their pensions stolen from them is nothing special. Everything around this plot, however, is very funny, and the movie thankfully spends more time on these aspects. Their banter is simply hilarious as they bicker while watching The Bachelorette. Their physical comedy is in top form when they try to steal from a grocery store. Sure, it’s not exactly the height of Caine’s career to be making a getaway in an electric shopping cart, nor Freeman’s best for sticking an entire roast down his pants, but damned if they’re not committed to these scenes and try to make them naturally funny. Lesser actors would have sighed as they stuffed food into their pants.
It’s only when the movie starts to focus more on the heist and sentimentality of the situation that Going in Style loses its edge. The bank robbery is staged with the usual slick editing, swanky music and training montage of any heist movie. The robbery expert they team up with, a Mexican pet storeowner, doesn’t add much to the operation, besides festooning the planning room with puppies and kitties.
The sweetness of these old guys trying to connect doesn’t quite earn the tears it aims to reap, mostly from faulty and cliché writing. Freeman intentionally avoids asking his friends to donate a kidney only so we can save that moment for the climax. Even the central utilitarian theme of the trio trying to perform a Robin Hood style deed by making sure good people get a piece of the pie comes off rather dim and exploitative for such an issue.