Entertainment

Maybe going to the movies has always been a repetitive experience

Posted March 29

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as noted by 19th-century writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in a famous epigram.

I’m frequently vocal about how movies today are too loud and bombastic, about how comedies are too crude and raunchy, and about how theater screens are clogged to overflowing with movies set in outer space or filled with superheroes.

Going to the movies today is feeling more and more like a repetitive experience.

But in reading a movie review I wrote for the Deseret News some 37 years ago (gulp!), it’s clear that these complaints are also not exactly new.

If movies are forever repeating themselves, well, so am I.

In anticipation of the opening of “Going in Style” next week (April 7) — a comedy about three elderly men who, out of boredom, and tired of feeling that society has kicked them to the curb, decide to rob a bank — I decided to look up my old review.

Yes, “Going in Style” is a remake of a 1980 comedy, which starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg.

And I know what you’re thinking. There he goes again, complaining about remakes. I can’t really blame you for that, but, actually, no. In this case, I’m really hoping it will be good.

I gave the original “Going in Style” a strong, positive review, and after re-watching it recently, I still love it. The stars are all exceptional, and I wrote that I was impressed with Burns stepping up to the plate for his first real opportunity to play a multi-faceted character.

Burns had made quite a few movies by this time, of course. He co-starred with his wife, Gracie Allen, in a couple dozen 1930s comedies and then in the 1970s began a solo career, carving out his territory in such hits as “The Sunshine Boys” and “Oh, God!”

But in my view, “Going in Style” was the first time he had been given a challenging role to demonstrate that he could really act, instead of just playing himself. (Burns won an Oscar for “The Sunshine Boys,” but he really deserved one for this film.)

Anyway, although I have a great fondness for the 1980 “Going in Style” — which boasts a surprising amount of warmth and heart in addition to being very funny — in truth the script is a bit uneven and the direction a bit flat (both by Martin Brest, who would go on to make “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Midnight Run” and “Scent of a Woman”).

In other words, while I would still strongly recommend the 1980 “Going in Style,” there’s room for improvement.

What’s more, three of my favorite actors star in the remake — Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.

This new film is directed by “Scrubs” actor Zach Braff, who has written and directed two movies in which he starred (“Garden State,” “Wish I Was Here”), but here makes his debut as director of a movie written by someone else and in which he does not appear. The screenwriter is Theodore Melfi, who wrote and directed “Hidden Figures.”

These guys are good, but whether 21st-century filmmakers can capture the kind of gentle sweetness and subtle subtext of ageism that marked the first film remains to be seen.

Still, here’s hoping.

Anyway, in reading my 1980 review of the original, I found this line at the end: “It’s not a perfect film but in this season of super-hype for space movies, raunchy comedies and loud marathon extravaganzas, ‘Going in Style’ is an excellent choice.”

There were indeed a lot of space movies in the late 1970s and early ’80s, (“Star Trek” had just been revived, “Superman” was a hit and then there was, of course, “Star Wars”), but not nearly as many as there are today.

There were certainly “raunchy comedies” back then (“Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Porky’s”) but at least we still had some comedies that were clean (“Heaven Can Wait,” “Tootsie,” “Mr. Mom”).

And as for “loud marathon extravaganzas,” well, have you seen any of the trailers for these upcoming summer flicks — “The Fate of the Furious,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “The Mummy”?

In the words of Charles Dickens, another 19th-century writer, “'Twas ever thus.”

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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