AARP last week announced that folks 50 and older now make up 30 percent of attendance at U.S. movie theaters.
AARP says this growing demo is giving rise to "lucrative new niches" and encouraging the development of movies "that don't rely on megabudgets to be successful," because older filmgoers, unlike their children and grandchildren, "don't really know how to use the internet and therefore don't know how to illegally stream movies that have yet to be released, and are afraid to buy from the guy in the subway who sells the pirated DVDs."
I made up that last quote. But the AARP numbers are real enough. Older folks made up 27 percent of the audience for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 50 percent of Taken 3 and other recent Liam Neeson movies, and a whopping 75 percent of art-house movies in general.
The final figures won't be known for a while, but I project that people 50 and older will account for 100 percent of the audience for Going in Style starring Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin as a squad of geezer bank robbers.
The stars are collectively about 240 years old. But each has at least one Oscar and a hundred screen credits apiece, so no one has to tell them how to wring laughs from this underwritten heist movie.
They play retired steelworkers whose pension payments are aborted when financial engineers engineer their company (and related obligations) out of existence. For Joe (Caine), this means missing mortgage payments and losing his house, where he cares for and subsidizes his daughter and granddaughter. For Willie (Freeman), it means not being able to afford a life-saving operation. For Albert (Arkin), it means listening, horrified, as his two best friends talk about robbing the bank that's about to foreclose on Joe.
Arkin is one of cinema's great complainers, a world-class kvetcher, and in fact won his Academy Award for back-seat kvetching in Little Miss Sunshine.
And while I love Arkin (particularly as the hit man's therapist in Gross Pointe Blank), there is nothing in his long and distinguished career that says "steelworker." Caine also looks a bit stranded here -- the movie is set in New York/North Jersey, where his extreme Britishness goes unexplained.
Freeman can be counted upon to bring gravitas to anything, but this movie (directed by Zach Braff) seems not to want it. Going in Style is all schtick, and the potential seriousness of health-care emergencies, predatory lending, and pension fraud is brushed away in favor of a bid for goofball laughs (Freeman and Caine practice for the big robbery by shoplifting, escaping on a motorized supermarket scooter).
The movie is good-natured, but almost infallibly unfunny. Ann-Margret appears as a store clerk and love interest for Arkin, coming on to him by talking about chicken parts making suggestive comments about breasts and thighs.