Director Brett Ratner is not known for comedy; he’s known more for action films like Red Dragon or X-Men 3. Granted, the man did the Rush Hour series, but I’m not really sure if you can legally consider those movies comedies since they’re so unfunny. But Tower Heist is a comedy compiled of a varsity team of laugh makers. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck (Oceans 11, Gone Baby Gone), Michael Pena (30 Minutes of Less, Crash), Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Independence Day) and Alan Alda (M*A*S*H, The Aviator) all star in this movie about the 1% stealing money from the 99%. It’s funnier than Rush Hour but still not the great comedy it should be.
Tower Heist is a very timely plot. The relevancy of a rich Bernie Madoff type stealing pensions and life savings from the people who work in his luxury Manhattan condo building he lives in is exactly the revenge story this country needs right now. It’s fun to watch Alda get his vintage, Steve McQueen Ferari smashed by Still with a golf club. It’s as if each strike is a victory for the Occupy Wall St. protestors. In that respect, the film is a true success, but might have been better if it was handled as a thriller instead of a comedy.
Spicing up the comedic premises are some very talented actors. Leading the charge is Murphy, who hasn’t actually appeared in a good movie since he was nominated for an Oscar in 2006’s Dreamgirls. Him making bank off of the Shrek franchise, allowing him to go away for a while, is a very good thing. He’s made a lot of very poor movie decisions and he saturated the market with Murphy. Seeing him in Tower Heist though reminds us all of why he was one of the brightest shining stars in Hollywood once. He crackles on the screen like Robin Williams did in his prime. He pumps life into lines that otherwise would go insignificant, simply by being Eddie Murphy. Of course he’s not breaking new ground or jockeying for accolades, but damnit, he’s really good.
Same can be said for the rest of the cast that do a fine job of supporting Murphy and allowing him to be the star. Especially Stiller who has proven he can be the funny man but takes a backseat as the straight guy to Murphy’s wild card. The only actor that gives Murphy a run for his money is Pena, who banks yet another winning comedic performance in his resume. It’s almost getting to the point where I forget that he started and excelled at drama first.
I appreciate this film for what it is and what it attempted to do. But sadly it falls short in quite a few ways. The comedy stops around the beginning of the third act and the rest is allowed to be suspenseful action, albeit still fun. The climax of the film though ventures into absurd when the entire success of their heist is dependent upon an absolutely impossible and stupid stunt. I’m not sure if that was Ratner’s idea to show off how well he can use special FX or not, but it’s ineffective except in that it makes me laugh unintentionally.
Tower Heist is a fun movie that does no wrong. Some of that is because heist films are always fun by default. But allow Oceans 11 be an example of how it can be fun, funny and downright awesome by stylizing the look and tone and keeping us grounded in the plausible. Go for the fun of it, stay for the Murphy but expect to get a little robbed of your expectations.
Tower Heist (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-