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Review

'Going in Style' review: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin keep comedy light and breezy

By Jim Slotek, Special to Postmedia Network

Entertainment Review

Going in Style

3 stars

  • Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lloyd, Kenan Thompson
  • Directed by: Zach Braff
  • Written by: Theodore Melfi
  • Duration: 96 minutes

George Burns – who co-starred with Lee Strasberg and Art Carney in the 1979 original Going in Style – used to say that at his age, he’d “get a standing ovation just for standing.”

Which is pretty much my feeling about the remake starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.

It is such an undeniable thrill to see these three legends together, it really doesn’t matter that the heist movie, directed by Zach Braff (Garden State) is nothing more than a pleasant stroll. No one with a heart condition need worry about their pulse racing (except maybe when they get a look at a still-amazing Ann-Margret).

At the risk of heresy, the original wasn’t a classic either, and was more sour in tone. The three codgers in it basically decided to rob a bank out of boredom.

This update drags in the tyranny of mortgage-holding banks, the scourge of outsourcing and the I-got-mine attitude of billionaires. Unlike their predecessors, Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) are happy enough in their genial pension-paid friendship, cheerfully cracking wise at each other.

Then the factory they’d spent their lives at closes, pensions are vaporized and Joe, his daughter and grandchild are facing eviction.

There you’ve got the makings for a very bitter tale. But Going In Style never lets the “cute” drop out of the red-zone. Jazz player Albert is being coyly pursued by a warm-hearted supermarket clerk named Annie (Ann-Margret), and their relationship is entertaining in a Curb Your Enthusiasm kind of way (Arkin could give Larry David lessons in dryly-funny, curmudgeonly deadpan).

And Christopher Lloyd as their not-all-there buddy Milton is simply channeling Reverend Jim from Taxi (his signature burned-out-druggie act turns out to work just as well presented as a form of geriatric dementia).

Amid all this, Braff sets up antic set-pieces that are supposed to be part of the build-up to the bank robbery – shooting practice, a rehearsal shoplift at a supermarket to see how quickly they can get in-and-out. But these really just seem to be stuff people thought up on-the-fly to pad a thin plot. Even with that, the movie strains its narrative to fill its hour-and-a-half running time, with an earnest-but-inept cop (Matt Dillon) always improbably a half-step behind the geriatric criminal masterminds.

I say all this, and still I have to admit leaving the theatre with a smile on my face.

The character range: Caine, likable and patient, Freeman, likable and grumpy, and Arkin, practically misanthropic, but still lovable. These are three Oscar-winning actors barely breaking a dramatic sweat in a lightweight comedy. And yet, I don’t consider it time wasted at all.

Twitter: @jimslotek

JSlotek@postmedia.com