Tower Heist

13 Dec

Title: Tower Heist
Year: 2011
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, with a story by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Mr. Griffin
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch, Zeljko Ivanek, Jessica Szohr
MPAA Rating: PG-13, language and sexual content
Runtime: 104 min
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

I watched Tower Heist about a month after the whole Brett Ratner kerfuffle. Not on purpose but rather because I had some catching up on previous movies to do, but still, I’m glad that happened. I’ve never thought much about Mr. Ratner or his movies (though Red Dragon, for which he was a very unlikely choice for director, was pretty damn decent) and the way he handled himself when making the rounds for this movie was just seriously atrocious, a move which of course got him ousted as producer from the upcoming Oscars telecast, and with him also went his collaborator in this film, Eddie Murphy, who had been tapped to host the ceremony.

Now that that’s all been resolved, and the Academy made the much smarter move of getting Brian Grazer to produce and Billy Crystal to host, the feelings for Mr. Ratner have settled down again, and I can watch Tower Heist and judge it for what it is. And, surprisingly enough, it actually turned out to be a film I can actually recommend to people. Don’t get me wrong, this is still undeniably a Brett Ratner movie, as in that it has absolutely no brains or anything of substance, but it’s also a good Brett Ratner movie in that it’s just seriously entertaining thanks to an ensemble that helped make the fluff of the film really fun to watch. And, perhaps more importantly, I thought this was a nice comeback vehicle for Mr. Murphy; he’ll probably never be what he once was, but this is a step in the right direction.

Seriously, Tower Heist is actually worth your time, it’s reminiscent of those big caper movies of the good ol’ days and it’s certainly well-made, and yeah, there’s nothing of substance to hold on to and the minute you leave the theater you’ll forget all about the film, but the fact that it has such a capable cast means that even the lousiest jokes in the films (of which there are a few) don’t sound as horrible as they normally would. Plus, like I said, Eddie Murphy shows more than a few glimpses of his old comedy mode (as in, not the ones that depended on a fat suit), and when that happens it’s actually pretty awesome just to watch him perform, he has that magnetism one couldn’t be blamed for having forgotten because of his recent choices in films, but once you see him stealing any scene from any of his co-stars, you’ll be glad he’s back to doing what he does best.

Not to mention that of course this film has that feeling of being quite timely what with all the Occupy Wall Street happenings of late, as the film centers around a group of employees of an apartment building full of insanely wealthy people and their plan to exact a heist to rob the Bernie Madoff-like billionaire played by Alan Alda, an arrogant guy who’s more than fine with leaving them without a pension fund. That timeliness actually makes this one better, you can relate to their causes, the people who were there in Wall Street will certainly like the idea presented by this film (even though it’s made by the people they’re protesting against).

The group of building employees is led by the manager, played by Mr. Stiller, who starts recruiting people for his heist, including a bankrupt resident played by Matthew Broderick, the bellhop played by Michael Peña and, of course, a thief played by Mr. Murphy, who’ll obviously be the volatile member of the team who may be acting with his own individual purposes at heart. So you just know this will be a fun movie, because no matter what you say it’s always fun to watch a slimey billionaire (especially one played so well by Alan Alda) get his due, and Mr. Stiller is always dependable in this kind of role, and Mr. Murphy is back to doing what he does best. Don’t get me wrong, there are all kinds of things that are off in this movie, loose ends abound and in the end it’s all pretty forgettable, but it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours in the theater.

I liked Tower Heist, I probably didn’t want to like it, actually, but I left the theater with a good feeling about it. There are good things here; the cinematography by Dante Spinotti (who did L.A. Confidential and The Insider) is pretty damn neat; the visual effects from Mark Russell are really effective; Kristi Zea (who did The Departed and Revolutionary Road) did the production design. So yeah, there are a lot of good parts to Tower Heist that, while they don’t make it a stellar film, do add to make a really entertaining caper flick.

I still don’t particularly like Brett Ratner, his comments make him look pretty stupid to me most of the time, but a) I don’t actually know the guy and, b) I won’t let that bias my judgment for this film. This is a film that makes us laugh about the economic crisis because we need some comic relief, that has Alan Alda being that kind of sarcastic he’s so good at that, that has Ben Stiller instill that everyman type of soul to his character and, most importantly, that has Eddie Murphy be the funniest he’s been since Bowfinger, and maybe back on the right track to relaunching his career. What it doesn’t have is enough Téa Leoni, she’s always incredible but most films don’t give her enough screen time or know how to best use her, and this one isn’t the exception. But hey, this isn’t a perfect film, but it’s really fun, and that’s more than what I thought it would be.

Grade: B

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