Can the Remake of ‘Going in Style’ Improve Upon the 1979 Original?

There have been a lot of remakes in recent years. Everything from horror to Disney is getting a revamp. One of the most recent is a remake of the 1979 comedy Going in Style, the story of three elderly men who, for some reason or another, decide to rob a bank. While, at their core, the two are basically the same, there are distinct differences to give them individual personalities.

Before I make any comparisons, a brief review of the new film. While it doesn’t break any ground in filmmaking, I’d say it’s worth a matinee screening. One of the things I admired about this film was that director Zach Braff and writer Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures) decided to change things up. It’s by no means perfect, but I don’t think anyone will regret seeing it.

One of the biggest differences from the original film is the motivation. In the original ’79 film, the three men — Joe, Al, and Willie (George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, respectively) — basically decide to rob a bank out of sheer boredom.

“If I got to spend another day doing nothing but sitting around in that park looking at them ugly kids, I’m going to go nuts,” Joe says.

Since these men are retired war veterans — Joe says he used to “do some stealing” during the war — it’s probable that they missing having a bit of thrill. When we see them scoping out a bank to rob, they’re clearly enjoying themselves. Art Carney even does a little dance.

In the remake, the three men — this time played by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin — have more personal motivation. Caine is about to lose his home, thus making him, his daughter, and his granddaughter homeless. Freeman wants to see his daughter and granddaughter who live far away more. Arkin robs the bank to spite it for taking away his pension. These motivating factors do give the audience a little more to root for rather than watching men who are simply bored rob a bank.

The robberies themselves are also different. In the ’79 film, the three come up with a basic plan: get guns from Al’s nephew, buy cheap Grouch Marx glasses, and take a cab to the bank. Whereas in the newer film, they actually plan it like a heist. They even get a consultant (John Ortiz) to help them plan. It’s timed, precise (for the most part), and comes off as a real caper. This ties into another big difference between the two: the tone.

The original film was very bittersweet; the remake is more of a crowd-pleaser. Sure, it takes a bigger stab at modern-day problems (like financial crises for senior citizens), but the story and tone are pretty conventional. Without spoiling anything, the old film doesn’t take a happy route, but its strange mix of sad and funny makes it stand out. Every other caper film is about the planning, the heist, and getting away. But not this one.

Ther are some other little changes. Ann-Margret and Christopher Lloyd’s parts weren’t in the original, Al and Willie switch parts of their personality, and lonely Joe has a family. I don’t mind these changes too much. Matter of fact, the scenes between Joe and his granddaughter (Joey King) are enjoyable.

But if I had to choose which of these was objectively better, it’d have to be the original. The new film is enjoyable and appeals to the majority of mainstream movie-goers, but sometimes it’s impossible to improve upon a classic.

About John Hamilton 41 Articles
John Hamilton is a lover of classic cinema from Southern Ohio and has been since he was a tiny little lad growing up on the farm. He's a fan of every type of film out there, especially Westerns and movies from the '60s and '70s. John is also a blogger and freelance writer.