– Summary –
Director : Brett Ratner
Year Of Release : 2011
Principal Cast : Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Michael Mena, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch, Stephen Henerdson.
Approx Running Time : 104 Minutes
Synopsis: A group of disenfranchised hotel employees plot to steal $20 million from a fallen businessman who resides in their tower block.
What we think : Slick, stylish
comedy, no, adventure…. no, heist yarn that meanders more than it punches. Stiller is solid, Murphy looks like he’s barely interested, while Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda steal the show right out from under the rest of the cast. Hardly a patch on Ocean’s 11, Tower Heist is forgettable movie fare that’s as entertaining as it is unmemorable.
Tower Heist was meant as something of a comeback for former comedy superstar Eddie Murphy. I say “meant”, because the end result of Tower Heist’s convoluted narrative and often cumbersome “comedy”, together with a lackluster performance by Murphy himself, leaves this film floundering as a pretender to the greats of the heist genre. Ben Stiller delivers a sweet straight-man role, Casey Affleck stutters and sneers his way through a thankless role, and Alan Alda looks like the seasoned pro he is (even if his role as the Evil Businessman is terribly written), but the whole film feels too artificial, too manufactured, to engender any warmth from the viewer. Brett Ratner, who would go on to lose his job directing the 2012 Oscar ceremony thanks to a racist comment whilst promoting this film, causing Eddie Murphy to pull the plug on hosting the same gig, has the potential to be a really great director (don’t laugh…. he does!) but Tower Heist isn’t among his best. Stiller plays a building manager in New York, who is fired when he assaults a businessman (Alda) living in the building who loses all the superannuation of the building staff in dodgy business dealings. He gathers up a group of former employees and one street thief (Murphy) to steal an apparent $20 million hidden in a safe in the businessman’s penthouse apartment. It’s like Ocean’s 11 meets Attack The Block. Only it’s not as good as that sounds.
Eddie Murphy really did need a star vehicle to elevate him from the Nutty Professor junk he’s been doing for the last decade or so. Tower Heist isn’t it. Murphy’s buried beneath a bunch of better actors, in a role so perfect to his comedic style and yet so lacking in sting and strength, and undercut by dialogue so politically correct it’s a wonder he still holds his head up around Hollywood. There’s no urgency to this film, nor is there to any of the performances in it. Ratner’s direction manages to feel a little like his work on After The Sunset – slick and colorful, yet emotionally empty. Moments of Tower Heist work well, in particular Stiller’s reveal to the staff of the block that their savings are all gone, and doorman Lester’s mournful arc after a suicide bid, but these moments are buried beneath wasted talent (Tea Leoni does well as an FBI agent, but Matthew Broderick is a far cry from the glory of Ferris Bueller – it’s great to see him on screen again, though – while Oscar nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe (from Precious) has an inexplicably Jamaican accent throughout; the film attempt to be a hodge-podge ensemble romp, but nobody’s romping and the “comedy” seems tired and forced. The mix of heavy drama and comedy asides doesn’t quite work as well as it could here, and the film is the poorer for it. Plus, the film takes an age to get going, which isn’t what you want in a good heist movie. The shame of this film is that it had the potential to be either an outright comedy, or an outright dramatic thriller, and had it gone with either and not both, it might have been a much better movie.