Tower Heist (2011)

Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson

Every year, or so it seems, there is a movie that is chock full of stars that looks like a blockbuster made for the masses with nothing specific enough, or astounding enough in mind to make anything other than just an average blockbuster movie. This year Tower Heist felt like that movie. Sure the previews made it seem funny. Sure, the previews made it seem relevant with some rich guy stealing money from the American working man. Sure, the previews made it seem like a fun time, with a bunch of average joe’s trying to pull of a $20 million robbery, but did any of us really have faith that the finished product would reflect upon the talent pooled together on screen?

Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand), a blockbuster specialist, Tower Heist takes place in The Tower, the most expensive piece of real estate in New York. Josh (Ben Stiller) is the manager who caters to every guests needs, but when The Tower’s Penthouse resident, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), is put under house arrest for illegal financial dealings, including losing all of the money in the staff’s pension funds. So Josh and some of the other staff, and one of the former residents (Matthew Broderick) spring a plan to rob Shaw of his safety net, estimated at $20 million, but they need the help of a real thief, Slide (Eddie Murphy), to complete the plan. But as is the fate of all plans, not everything goes to plan.

I was not expecting much going into the theater this afternoon and that is basically what I got. Eddie Murphy has been off the block for quite a while now, some would argue since his heyday in the 80s. I cannot say this is a return to form. Ben Stiller is a name that conjures up some really good comedic performance from earlier in his career, but he too does not deliver a return to form. I do not mean to be harsh, because they are fine in this film, providing a few laughs. Stiller even shows off some of his more dramatic skills which he has accumulated the last ten years. But there weren’t even really as many laughs as I was expecting.

The film is fine, and I always find it difficult to compose a review of a film that was really mediocre. What bad can I say about it and what good can I say? Seeing this big cast of familiar faces, even the fairly new ones like Gabourey Sidibe, was a fun time and it is a fun movie. It just doesn’t do anything special or imaginative to raise it above the standard heist screenplay. There are a couple plot holes and moments that force the audience to suspend disbelief, which some of my cinema friends may more openly rip apart, but at the end of the day the film is doomed more by its mediocrity than its failure to capture its more ambitious ideas convincingly.

It is a strange phenomenon when I can exit the theater thinking that, despite it being only a fair film, that by the time I got home from the cinema the movie was difficult to remember. I couldn’t even remember the name Arthur Shaw when I sat down to write this review so to say it is forgettable is an understatement. He was the main villain! Perhaps I am too forgiving, but I do love seeing Murphy, Still, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena, and especially Casey Affleck on screen in any capacity. Tower Heist is fine in terms of a few hours of escapism, and nothing more or less than that.

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