‘Going in Style’ review: Remake has fantastic cast, but not much else

Any movie that stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as Brooklynites who plot to rob a Williamsburg bank …

Any movie that stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as Brooklynites who plot to rob a Williamsburg bank can’t be all that bad. That’s true even when it comes to something as halfhearted and lazy in its plotting and execution as Zach Braff’s thoroughly superfluous remake of the 1979 heist comedy “Going in Style.”

It’s a pleasant and insignificant watch as far as it goes, a senior citizens’ buddy picture that coasts by, thanks to the charms of its stars, but never bothers to try too hard. Sure, it’s funny when the distinguished Oscar-winning trio practices their criminal skills in a grocery store, for example, but they’re doing shtick and riffing on their ingrained personas. They’re not really playing characters inhabiting a story.

Caine plays Joe, Freeman is Willie and Arkin takes on the role of Albert, and these guys are about as fascinating as those names suggest. They’re pensioners robbed of their pensions amid corporate malfeasance. Due to financial desperation and, to be sure, the allure of revenge, they endeavor to rip off the bank that’s frozen the funds.

This involves lots of humor focused on the spectacle of geriatrics behaving mildly badly, stealing back just the amount that was stolen from them and taking great care not to harm anyone or anything. They’re good guys who don’t even come close to doing anything that doesn’t have obvious and understandable motivations, while the obstacles placed in their way are easily surmountable. Mild is the key word here.

Directing someone else’s script in a feature film for the first time, Braff seems uninspired, falling back on clichéd soundtrack choices (A Tribe Called Quest as a voice of the outer boroughs) and the sort of routine action comedy editing decisions that are meant to quicken the pace but only serve to highlight how many times we’ve seen this sort of thing before. No one would miss the age-old trick of doubling back to show us how a complicated sting was achieved from all the angles, for example.

There’s precious little actual drama, few laughs, and almost no reason to see this movie except, again, for the undeniable pleasure of watching these three men, with approximately 20,000 films under their collective belt, have a decent enough time goofing off in Kings County.

“Going in Style”

Directed by Zach Braff

Starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin

Rated: PG13

2 stars

Robert Levin