November 7, 2011

Movie Review: Tower Heist

Over the years Brett Ratner, Ben Stiller, and Eddie Murphy films have been something of a mixed bag. The former is a steady Hollywood hand and a favorite target of internet fanboys, but you generally know what you are going to get with him. Ratner delivers slick Hollywood fare that encourages concession sales and low brain function. I enjoy them well enough, just don't expect anything too great. Ben Stiller can be very funny, he can also be very annoying, and then there is Eddie Murphy, a man who seems to be stuck in family movie hell. Now, how does the idea of bringing these three together sound? Certainly intriguing, but hardly a sure thing in my book. So, color me surprised to hear somewhat positive buzz around Tower Heist.

Seriously, Tower Heist is a good bit of fun with a solid ensemble cast in a ridiculous and timely movie. Really, if you stop and apply logic to some of the stuff that happens here, it all just falls apart in a steaming pile of ridiculosity (yes, I made that up). What the movie has going for it is a relentless forward motion. It is kind of like trying to walk down a steep hill, before you know it, you are knee deep in it, running, falling, and hopefully smiling. It has timely subject that blends with the silly nature of the plot that will have you thinking about the world around you just as the comedy and action will take you away from it all. In a way, it may just be mainstreamed genius. Nah, not really.

Stiller is Josh Kovacs, the precision driven manager of the Tower (played by the Trump Tower). He has a staff that includes the doorman Lester (Stephen Henderson), the desk clerk Charlie (Casey Affleck), elevator man Enrique (Michael Pena), and maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe, sporting an awful Jamaican accent). With a team like that, how can you go wrong? Also playing a big role is the recently fired and evicted Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick).

Now, add a little bit of bad guy to the mix. Alan Alda is Arthur Shaw, the pent house owner and big shot wall street investor who likes to pal around with the little guy like he still is one. Even in the opening scenes, the guy is slimy and not someone I would want to be hanging around with. Anyway, before long Shaw is arrested for heading up a Ponzi scheme and is revealed as the Bernie Madoff of our story. This scheme affects the Tower employees as Shaw was managing their investments an pension. They have nothing left.

This is the point where the "heist" portion of Tower Heist kicks into high gear. Of course, Kovacs and his team have no experience stealing anything, so Kovacs enlists an expert. Enter Slide, played by Eddie Murphy. Slide is a fast talking thief who lives in the same neighborhood as Josh. He steps in and schools everyone on the art of thievery.

Of course, the heist does not go as planned. There are some easily predictable complications and instead of money, they end of stealing a car, a very special 1953 Ferrari. This proves to be a tricky affair as you cannot exactly put it in an elevator or take it down a stairwell. Not to mention there are FBI agents around.

Well,  I feel fairly certain you have a decent idea of where the plot is going. What makes the movie entertaining is the energy. That relentless forward motion carries you along where you cannot think about the intricacies of the plot, not to mention they do not exactly talk a lot about their exact plans. So, light on expedition and heavy on continuous motion results in a watchable silliness.

The cast is fun, it is interesting to see Stiller cast against type. He is usually the put upon victim, here he is the aggressor and he does it moderately well. As for Murphy? It really is nice to see him doing something that doesn't involve children or fat suits. I liked the supporting cast as well, for the most part. Michael Pena was pretty funny and Alda really played up the slime.

I liked Tower Heist. It is not a great movie by any stretch, but the relationship it has with the current financial situation combined with slapstick inspired silliness is a good combination. It can give you something tho think about or merely entertain for a couple of hours. Either way, you will be away from your own personal world.


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