Notable Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Michael Peña, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Téa Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe
Review: Disclaimer: The characters portrayed in this film are not based off of reality and any situations are coincidental. Really Brett Ratner? Right, there’s no connection to the recent Ponzi genius Bernie Madoff who was held under house arrest in his lavish penthouse paradise? Not that it even matters, I just chuckled knowing full well the blatant similarities to Madoff and Alan Alda’s investor character no matter what Ratner has to say to legally cover his own ass. Non the less, Tower Heist was set up for victory and honestly has the perfect market appeal…for a few reasons. Be it based on Bernie (Hofstra Alum!!) or not, its human nature to love a “little man takes back from the corrupt big wig” story. Now multiply those feelings with a struggling economy plus a recent identical scandal, and you have a feel good movie for the masses. Plus we can add a cast that appeals to a wide variety of markets (Stiller snags comedy goers, Broderick the classier demo, Peña the younger, and Affleck the wild card), and one dark horse factor (no, that’s not a racist joke) on everyone’s mind: could Eddie Murphy be funny on a level that’s escaped him as of late? Curiosity certainly killed the cat, but would it kill this lowly film lover as well?
So if you know the story about Berni Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, you know the set up of this film. Now imagine four working stiffs tried to rob Madoff blind and you’ve filled in the rest of the Tower Heist plot. Josh (Stiller) was the General Manager of the posh upscale apartment building known as The Tower, which houses only the most rich and powerful. His brother-in-law Charlie (Affleck) works the desk as a concierge while worrying about his pregnant wife at home. Enrique (Pena) is a new hire, manning the elevator. The team is rounded out by failed Merril Lynch investor Mr. Fitzhugh (Broderick), who is in the process of being evicted by The Tower. This band of merry men are brought together when the most famous tower resident investment guru Arthur Shaw (Alda) is exposed as a fraud and lost all the pension funds for the Tower staff. As a result, Josh gets him, Charlie, and Erique fired after a property damaging outburst in Shaw’s apartment. So, determined to expose Shaw before he can weasel out of his sentence and pay back the hard-working people wo trusted him, Josh devises a plan with local small time criminal Slide (Murphy) to rob the well fortified Shaw residence. Fool proof, right?
“We’re sorry Mr. Stiller, we have to stop you before another Meet The Parents is made…”
First thing is first: Eddie Murphy. The man hasn’t been relevant for an entire decade that included numerous Razzie performances for such turds as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Norbit, Meet Dave, and Daddy Day Care. We yearn for the foul-mouthed, straight shooting days of Eddie Murphy Raw or Eddie Murphy Delirious, but it appears career choices are being influenced by family as per his large explosion of unwatchable family oriented films. Now, I refuse to say Eddie Murphy is back because I can only imagine the next horrific role he’ll take, but we saw glimpses of the good old Murphy breaking through. Loud, brash, full of attitude, and borderline insane is the best kind of Murphy we can ask for. His criminal character gave him the freedom to revert back to his old self, thankfully not having to play a father figure doling life lessons out quicker than his leaking credibility. Nope, we get some classic Murphy tirades with none of the moral political correctness, making Murphy easy to digest for the first time in years.
But, OK, this is a Brett Ratner film, so inevitably there comes a point where we must abandon all realism. Ratner isn’t one to challenge his audience, which can be seen in the simplistic title of calling the building in question “The Tower,” and as the film gets deeper into the developing plot, plausibility is thrown directly out the window. The script liked to throw a lot of “facts” around to make the actions on-screen seem legitimate, but every fact stated couldn’t have been more wrong. We’re just supposed to trust what we hear with blind faith and roll along with the punches. I can buy into the whole “a movie is just a movie” deal, but don’t try to rationalize the silly actions. It’s hard to refute details without giving much away, so I’ll just comment generally. Tower Heist takes an already impossible “stick it to the man” plot, and completely loses me in the final acts. The logistics alone of what Stiller and his crew pull off are baffling enough and I couldn’t help but be distracted muttering “well that can’t possibly happen” over and over again to myself. The script moves along under the guidance of a frat bro deciding “oh man, you know what would be totally awesome next?!”…and just magically made it happen thanks to Hollywood.
Then again, maybe I’m being too critical. It’s not like I was tortured through a disaster of epic proportions that made me want to set the theater ablaze as the credits rolled. For what it’s worth, I was at least entertained while watching. There was just enough mindless comedy to make me forget my worries and chug along to the next scene. But then again, I have no desire to ever catch Stiller, Murphy, and company bringing down the man ever again. Tower Heist is exactly what the main title paints it out to be and nothing more. Ratner’s film was obvious, simplistic, safe, and a tad easy on the comedy. Murphy and Peña had me cracking up, but outside these two I wasn’t feeling anything special. Easiest way to put it? Tower Heist won’t be making any big scores…
Final Rating: 6.5 ski caps out of 10
One maid I don’t want to see go rogue…