By Bill Wine

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –With four Oscars among its three stars and a fondly recalled original as its template, this remake boasts all kinds of style going in.

Pity, then, that this underachieving heist comedy, Going in Style, comes up a bit short in the charm and appeal departments.

Morgan Freeman (an Oscar winner for Million Dollar Baby), Alan Arkin (an Oscar winner for Little Miss Sunshine), and Michael Caine (an Oscar winner for Cider House Rules and Hannah and Her Sisters) co-star as lifelong buddies, Brooklyn neighbors, and steelworker colleagues who, when they discover that their company has been bought and a bank has misappropriated their pension funds – making them magically disappear – and, to fulfill their present financial obligations and leave something behind for their loved ones, decide to knock off the very bank that has, in their view, absconded with their hard-earned money.

The 1979 Martin Brest-directed original, which starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, viewed the planned crime as an escape from boredom.

The remake comes from director Zach Braff, best known as an actor on the television sitcom, Scrubs, who worked from a screenplay by Theodore Melfi that was based on the 1979 story by Edward Cannon.

But what seems like a less personal work for Braff perhaps explains why the film lacks the command and quality of his first two directorial efforts, Garden State and Wish I Was Here, and why he depends more than he should on the film delivering on the too-obvious level of grumpy old pros doing stuff that grumpy old pros don’t usually do.

2 Movie Review: Going in Style

(2 stars out of 4)

The updated script has the senior-citizen threesome, about to retire and break the law for the first time in their respective lives, agreeing to steal exactly the amount that they feel their pension would have paid them, and to donate any extra dollars beyond that figure to charity.

Of course, this helps to make the wannabe criminals that much more sympathetic.  But still not sympathetic enough for us to buy the overriding premise.

Braff has quite a cast to work with – his three talented leads providing the star power with support from an ensemble that includes Ann-Margret, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Kenan Thompson, Josh Pais, Joey King, and Christopher Lloyd.

But the director doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to continuity or credibility: there are bogus moments, especially during the centerpiece robbery, when the behavior we’re watching on the part of the three aging, masked principals is so obviously not them it undermines the entire film.

And he barely pays lip service to the film’s presumably embedded theme of ageism in the workplace and corporate indifference there and elsewhere.

Coupled with the fact that these geezers, however likable or empathetic they are, are committing ARMED ROBBERY, this is a light comedy with some unmistakably questionable ethical and/or moral inconsistencies.

So we’ll withdraw 2 stars out of 4.  The problematic crime comedy, Going in Style, transported from the seventies to the new century’s teens, goes in one era and out the other.

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