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Tower Heist (Review)

Tower Heist (Review)

It's good to have you back, Eddie.
Dec 12, 2011
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Tower Heist
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime Release Date: 26/12/2011 Runtime: 104 minutes Country: USA


Director:  Brett Ratner Writer(s): 
Ted Griffin

Jeff Nathanson

Adam Cooper

Bill Collage

Ted Griffin

Cast: Alan Alda, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, , Matthew Broderick, Stephen Henderson
Tower Heist (Review), reviewed by Anders Wotzke on 2011-12-12T14:46:12+00:00 rating 3.5 out of5

Eddie Murphy has been stealing from the pockets of moviegoers for over a decade now – how else would you describe the experience of watching Pluto Nash or Imagine That? – so it’s not without a sense of irony that he gives his best performances in years as a petty thief in Tower Heist. Murphy not only steals scenes from his co-star Ben Stiller, he actually earns a few laughs in the process, a promising sign that the comedian is finally managing to shake the serious case of the “family friendlies” he contracted at the turn of the century.

But enough about Murphy; how’s the rest of the movie? Well, it’s certainly no Ocean’s Eleven, even it has been co-written by the very same Ted Griffin. It’s just not clever or slick enough, but it’d be wrong of me to assume that it intends to be. It’s what you’d call a casual heist movie in that it’s played for laughs, not smarts. It’s also about as good as you’ll ever get from Brett Ratner, the by-the-numbers Hollywood director whose crowning achievement is, well, Rush Hour. Ratner is all about getting the job done, and with Tower Heist, he does exactly that. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tying nicely into the current credit crunch, the story sees the employees of a luxury apartment complex endeavour to steal back their hard-earned dosh from their sleazy boss Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda; The Aviator), a villainous member of the 1% who swindled all their pensions to keep his Wall Street enterprise from going under. (Of course, it doesn’t undermine the potency of the message at all that the 99% are being represented by some of Hollywood’s highest paid actors.) In one of his more sympathetic roles, Ben Stiller leads the charge as Josh Kovacs, the building’s manager whose convinces concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck; The Killer Inside Me), elevator operator Enrique (Michael Peña; Battle LA), maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe; Precious) and ex-investor Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick; The Producers) to help pull off the heist. The plan is to break into Shaw’s heavily-guarded penthouse suite and claim the millions hidden inside a safe in the wall for themselves. But there’s a slight problem: none of them know anything about stealing things.  That’s where Eddie Murphy comes in as Slide, a small-time criminal Kovacs brings on board to help give the would-be crooks a crash course in thievery. Lesson number one? Never trust a thief.

Not since 1999’s Bowfinger has Murphy been this entertaining on screen, his signature boisterousness working comedic wonders against the reticence of the rest of the group. He can’t quite create a character out of the caricature he’s given, but that’s hardly his fault, and his presence alone gives the film the kind of spark needed to keep things funny and fresh going forward. Kudos also to Matthew Broderick, who underplays his crestfallen character to precision, and Alan Alda, who makes for the kind of vile villain audiences love to hate.  In fact, everyone in front of the camera is doing their best to make the screenplay by Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffin work, which unfortunately, often doesn’t. The ugly scars of rewrites are all over this one, from subplots that go nowhere to cavernous gaps in logic that are impossible to ignore. Look, I’m all for suspending my disbelief, but please, don’t pretend I’m not familiar with how gravity works. I do know, and let me tell you, it doesn’t work like THAT.

Luckily though, this is a light comedy first and a heist thriller second, so it gets away with being an average example of the latter. All in all, I honestly expected to loathe Tower Heist given the people involved, but there I was, smiling my way through what simple pleasure the film has to offer, merely pleased to be able to enjoy Murphy’s presence on screen again, let alone tolerate it. It was almost as if the last decade never happened!  Almost.

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