It took Zach Braff a good three years after the premiere of Scrubs to show us what he could on the big screen with Garden State. An instant independent classic, it’s a good thing we didn’t hold our breath waiting for his next directorial effort. A decade later, Wish I Was Here finally arrived, and no one — except Braff’s biggest fans, our own Luke Hickman especially — even knew it existed.
We didn’t have to wait as long between projects for Going in Style to arrive, unfortunately, he’s brought us another entry in grumpy old men acting cartoonish. Here we find the exceptional cast of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin bumbling their way through Theodore Melfi’s (St. Vincent, Hidden Figures) cliched script, acting buffoonish for the sake of a laugh.
Joe (Caine) is visiting his bank to confront the swindling Chuck (Josh Pais) after receiving a foreclosure notice on his home. A bank robbery erupts and Joe gets the idea that he should rob them too. He sets out to recruit his long time chums Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) to convince them that they need to set things right after finding out that their pension plans will be dissolved to pay off their work’s debt after sending the steel mill’s jobs overseas. Now, they’re out for revenge, but it won’t be without the help of Joe’s lowlife ex-son-in-law’s acquaintance Jesus (John Ortiz).
Braff obviously wants the film to have a laid back appeal to it, but there’s only so much the cast can do. While the main trio is as loveable as ever, Braff has brought in the likes of Christopher Lloyd — hopefully playing much more senile than in real life at just 78 — and Ann Margaret — an all too obvious Grumpy Old Men reference — to try to keep the shenanigans fresh. But all we’re left with is the cast grumbling about how old they are and how hard it is to move. You would expect them to be yelling at kids to get off their lawn aside from the fact that they live in New York City and there’s nothing but sidewalks and busy streets.
It’s a shame that the film isn’t funnier because the cast could have been a breath of fresh air with the onslaught of summer inching closer and closer. Braff at least seems to know what his audience wants and it’s the aforementioned “hilarity” of his cast exuding “look at how old we are, aren’t we hilarious?” with every take. Melfi also seems to know his niche for what older audience members are looking for, and I suppose even they need to turn their brain off once in awhile. It’s just all such a shame that everything is played either way too broad or too subdued at the drop of a hat. One thing’s for sure, no one involved is Going in Style by the time the credits roll. Proceed with caution and you could have some fun, but it tries too hard while never trying hard enough.