A little way into Tower Heist you are lulled into feeling you’re watching a pretty good funny movie. Eddie Murphy’s actually back in a groove reminiscent of his heyday. Alan Alda plays a Bernie Madoff-type character. Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Tia Leone, and Judd Hirsch are all around for good measure….Then the baloney begins to unfurl.
Soon quelling the laughs, a big fat set of cliches drops in your lap. Before you know it, what looked like a production that could have made a significant comic statement on “the one percent” very rich and their victims plays it safe and bland. A car perposterously dangling from a high floor of Trump Tower over a Macy’s Day Parade personifies the film’s turn to jelly. Director Brett Ratner’s encore has us believe Ben Stiller and his band of Robin Hoods actually sneak past the Tower’s security because they’re too busy being mesmerized by the parade. More parade shenanigans ensue but I won’t bore you.
Shame, because the movie has some worthy moments. Murphy’s so good you almost forget his largely unmemorable preformances in the past two decades. Playing a role similar to Jamie Foxx in Horrible Bosses, he’s asked to bring a bunch of (white) hapless would-be-criminals up to the task of performing some serious mischief. He quickly rounds up Stiller, Broderick (admirably deadpan), Affleck, and Michael Pena to a mall and asks them to all steal at least $50 worth of stuff and report back to him. He also takes their wallets so they won’t be tempted to pay. The timing of his lines and the frenetic mania of his character reminds us how strong a comic actor he was in films like Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. One particular scene in Tower Heist opposite Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) is especially brilliant but by the film’s second half, Murphy’s presence is diminished and we’re left with the caper itself, a heist to rob Alda’s secret stash. He evokes a frighteningly affable monster who steals pension investments from his building’s workers while swimming in a penhouse pool with an engraved image of a huge $100 bill. Also keeping a rare Ferrari inside his apartment, he soon gets nabbed by FBI agent Leone and goes under house arrest. Stiller, feeling especially responsible since as building manager he led his minions’ money go you in smoke once in Alda’s grasp, decides to take revenge.
Not quite a stellar cast entirely wasted but one who could definitely have used a better screenplay. It’s like signing up the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals to play a sandlot softball game. And as far as the Wall Street persona and what got us here, you’d be far wiser to catch the current flick “Margin Call” if you’re really interested.
5 Ferraris Over a Parade (Out of 10)