Dignity heist

Three greats go through motions in embarrassing remake

Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret. Directed by Zach Braff. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 1.0

I know I bitched about the recent Beauty and the Beast remake being a little unnecessary. At least that movie was enjoyable and sweet on some levels. After that came the Ghost in the Shell remake that looked good and had decent performances, but was a letdown as far as remakes go.

Now comes Going in Style, a total disaster remake of a bleak “old guys rob a bank wearing rubber noses” comedy from back in 1979 that starred George Burns and Art Carney. The original was directed by Martin Brest, the guy who would go on to direct Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and, uh-oh, Gigli.

This remake loses all the charm of that fun and slightly dark Burns vehicle. It’s super heavy on schmaltz, and it asks a strong cast to basically embarrass themselves for 90-plus minutes.

Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin replace Burns, Carney and Lee Strasberg in the updated story, and that setup probably looked pretty good on paper. Unfortunately, they handed the film to Zach Braff, the guy from Scrubs, to direct. Braff does so with all the subtlety and nuance of an M-80 going off in a candlelight yoga class.

The comedic moments demand that you laugh, and you don’t. The touching moments grab you by the collar and scream “Cry for me!” and you don’t. The heist itself insists that it is clever while being rather rote and mundane. The payoff involves a little girl basically doing something totally wrong, and it feels weird.

Caine replaces Burns as Joe, the brains of the group. During a visit to a bank to complain about his upcoming foreclosure, Joe witnesses a robbery. So, naturally, when he and his pals’ pensions go away, he decides to rob a bank.

Then, after some gentle persuading with Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin), they rob a bank. The big twist here is that they rob a bank wearing Rat Pack masks instead of the rubber nose glasses worn in the original. That’s the biggest twist the film has to offer.

The heist itself just sort of happens. Braff shows you some of the planning and execution in flashbacks, but this technique doesn’t reveal the heist as anything ingenious. The whole beauty of Going in Style ’79 was that three old men simply, and rather sloppily, robbed a bank. Trying to make them crafty pros in this one is a major misstep.

The original, just a few minutes in, had Joe deciding to rob a bank basically because he was bored and broke. Now, Joe’s motivations are all trumped up and complicated. All of the spontaneity is lost.

Of course, Ann-Margret is around to sleep with Albert (the grumpy one) and make him feel young again. That’s her job these days. She gets the “sleep with the old guy” role that she had in Grumpy Old Men again. It’s hard watching a great, fun actress being reduced to a stereotype.

The movie is a real bummer … a blue paint bomb in a bag full of hundreds and fifties. This is shaping up as the year of the unnecessary remakes.