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‘Going in Style’ makes feeble jokes about the elderly

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Grumpy old men with guns in Going in Style.
Photo: Warner Bros. / Courtesy

Two stars

Going in Style Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin. Directed by Zach Braff. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.

Old people doing things that old people don’t typically do has been a reliable source of comedy for decades, and Going in Style is nothing if not reliable. A remake of Martin Brest’s shaggy 1979 dramedy about three senior citizens plotting a bank robbery, the new movie gets rid of all the original’s melancholy ruminations and replaces them with broad, obvious comedy, turning an off-the-cuff robbery into an absurdly elaborate Hollywood-style heist full of inconsistencies. Stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin are the definition of old pros, and they do exactly what they’ve been hired to do and nothing more.

That anonymous predictability applies to everything about the movie, which was directed by Zach Braff in a move away from his deeply personal previous films (Garden State, Wish I Was Here) and into unabashed hackery. Caine, Freeman and Arkin play three grumpy old men who’ve just had their pensions cut off by the heartless corporation for which they spent their lives working, and are on the verge of various financial catastrophes. With nothing to lose, they decide to rob a bank, and they spend the majority of the movie in strained comic situations as they prepare.

The screenplay by Theodore Melfi also includes plenty of go-nowhere subplots and useless supporting characters, and the jokes about old guys being out of touch were stale when the stars were young up-and-comers. Braff throws in a bunch of hyperactive editing tricks during the montages of the characters’ preparation, but there’s no style or momentum there. Early on, the movie hints at social commentary, but any sense of anger or activism is lost by the feel-good finale. What once was a story about the loneliness and neglect of old age ends up a forced, wacky comedy about seniors behaving badly.

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