“Tower Heist,” written by Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Adam Cooper (story) and Bill Collage (story), directed by Brett Ratner, 104 minutes, rated PG-13.
Although the timing of “Tower Heist,” the latest movie from Brett Ratner, is closely tied to the financial meltdown and Ponzi schemes that crippled the country, the theme of hardworking men and women falling victim to business-savvy sharks is perennial.
“Tower Heist” opens with billionaire real estate mogul Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) diving into a pool of money (a swimming pool on the roof of his penthouse suite with an oversized $100 bill adorning the bottom), while Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), the faithful manager of Shaw’s most prestigious residence, gets ready for another workday.
Kovacs’ morning routine, and his entire life for that matter, is dedicated to making Shaw look good. Kovacs leads a rat-race lifestyle, trying to get ahead through long hours and hard work. But unbeknownst to him, Shaw has stolen the money from his retirement fund. In fact, he has stolen from all his employees.
It was Kovacs who naively entrusted Shaw with the employees’ portfolios, and with that guilt hanging over him, it’s his intention to get the money back. Kovacs assembles a crew made up of discarded workers (Michael Pena, Casey Affleck), an evicted tenant (Matthew Broderick) and a low-life criminal (Eddie Murphy) to right Shaw’s wrongs, and steal millions from the wealthy New Yorker.
Ratner has hand-picked an all-star cast centered around Stiller and Murphy, two comedians with patchy resumes who have seen both great success and failure at the box office and in the public’s eye.
As much as he wants to, Eddie Murphy doesn’t steal the show in “Tower Heist,” he just bullies his way into it. He’s the loudest voice in the film – one could argue he’s the loudest in Hollywood – and somehow Murphy thinks that entitles him to laughs. Sure, it worked in “Beverly Hills Cop,” but it doesn’t here.
The comedy that does work for “Tower Heist” is the cluelessness of Affleck’s Charlie and Pena’s Enrique. Stiller, on the other hand, takes the role of the hero, who boldly stands up and tries to correct mistakes that he feels responsible for. It’s an encouraging turn for the funnyman, whose final frames here show off his range as an actor.
But the film isn’t funny enough to leave you rolling in the aisles, and it’s certainly not smart enough to offer any meaningful insight into the country’s poor economic state. Hijinks are what Ratner is after, and because of that, “Tower Heist” is more akin to “Home Alone” than Charles Ferguson’s documentary “Inside Job.”
There is something to be said for Ratner’s tactic – to entertain the everyman still suffering from the effects of the recession rather than lecture them. “Tower Heist” creates a distance, however, in its silliness, undermining any depth the film might have had.
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