Zach Braff has made a directorial career (and arguably an acting career) out of looking at Generation X nostalgia and ennui, so it’s a bit of a weird jump to see him direct something like Going in Style, a film explicitly about people born 70 to 80 years ago rather than 30 to 40. But having seen the film, it’s pretty clear that what’s actually going on is that Braff isn’t being given the artistic freedom that his previous films afforded, and he’s been brought on as effective directorial presence rather than as one with anything definitive or insightful to say.
Starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin—a cast seemingly designed as an amateur voice impressionist’s wet dream—Going in Style is the story of how three old men lose their pensions as old company abandons them, and naturally, they decide to rob the bank that carries all their debts. Eventually, it becomes a sort of geriatric Ocean’s Eleven affair, but in the meantime, prepare to be treated to a lot of antics as the three prove to be woefully inept at infiltrating the world of criminality.
And actually, that’s the film’s biggest fault. See, Theodore Melfi‘s screenplay can’t seem to decide whether the central joke of the narrative is that the old guys are incompetent in their age or whether it’s that everyone underestimates them because they’re old. It changes based on the needs of the particular scene, and consequently, the film is never consistently funny. Caine, Freeman, and Arkin are all pros, so they at least sell the physical comedy even as their dialogue falls flat, but even then, the jokes always take the most obvious route, which a seasoned movie-goer will see coming and grow tired of quickly.
The film actually dips into tedium, though, when it insists on teasing tragedies just around the corner that just obviously aren’t going to happen given the film’s uplifting tone. We’re constantly reminded of how Freeman’s character is going through renal failure and how Alda’s character longs for death until he finds a new lease on life in a romantic interest, but for as much as the film wants us to believe that something tragic is about to happen, it would be such a tonal shift that it would work against the crowd-pleasing goals the production clearly has. This is most apparent in the film’s interminable third act, which toys with the “will they/won’t they get away with it” angle long after it’s obvious that the film should have ended.
Overall, Going in Style is an inoffensive bit of fluff that I’m sure some audiences will get a kick out of. It’s little more than a basic framework for people to see some familiar faces take digs at their own age and pretend to be more doddering than they actually are, and there’s definitely an audience for that. I’m just not it, and I think most casual viewers—or at least the kinds of viewers who read reviews—won’t find much worth recommending here, even if they’re Zach Braff fans.