Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Tower Heist

When I first saw the trailer for Tower Heist, I thought it looked like a B-Level Ocean’s 11.  Then I saw that Brett Ratner had directed it and revised my expectations to D-Level.  But truth be told, what makes it onto screen for the first hour of the movie is a passable attempt at a caper flick.  Trump Tower in Columbus Circle makes for a very solid backdrop against which the Madoff-esque plot can unfold.  Don’t get me wrong, Ratner, Stiller, and Murphy aren’t exactly channeling Soderbergh, Clooney, and Pitt here, but this film is definitely a step up from X-Men: Last Stand, Little Fockers, and Norbit respectively.  The problem then with Tower Heist is the last thirty minutes, but more on that later.

So what worked?

- Alan Alda.  As Arthur Shaw, the veteran thespian proves once again just how accomplished he is – seamlessly slipping into a role that calls for the kind of duplicity one would expect from a swindler of Madoff proportions.

- The pacing.  Most of the movie moves at a brisk pace.  This is however partially due to the fact that Ratner rarely lets his films get bogged down in character development.  So while you will never get depth from one of his movies, at least you know that the man keeps the proverbial assembly line moving.

- Stephen Henderson.  As Lester the kind-hearted doorman, Henderson adds some much needed likability to the proceedings.  His presence alone makes you hope that in the end, Alda’s Shaw get his just deserts.

So what didn't work?

- Ben Stiller.  Stiller is miscast as the straight man in this film, which is ironic because he has made a nice career for himself playing the ultimate misfit.  Everything you like about a Ben stiller performance – oddball behavior, physical comedy, and painfully awkward les faux pas - is absent from this film.  As the lead, he is drab, one dimensional, and predictable.

- Eddie Murphy.  Nothing Murphy does in this film works.  He has no chemistry with Stiller and adds no comedic relief to the proceedings.  If delivering lines loud and over-the-top were an Olympic event, Murphy would have walked away with the gold for his performance.

- The third act.  It's dangerous when a flimsy script gets cerebral with its plot twists, because when that happens, things tend to come to a screeching halt.  I guess this derailment of Tower Heist was inevitable.  Just like any other team or individual who tries to defy the odds to accomplish the impossible, Brett Ratner’s attempt to make a decent movie was destined to run out of steam during crunch time.

- Underutilized Cast.  Tea Leoni, Judd Hirsch, Casey Affleck, and Matthew Broderick are given nothing to work with in this film - a total waste of comedic talent.

So…should you see it?

Should you ever see a movie that lists the director and the two lead actors as things that do not work in the film?  Of course not, but there is just enough in this film to make it tolerable under precise circumstances…in other words: for free, because honestly, the biggest heist about this movie is that it made $153 million worldwide at the box office.  So wait for it to show up on TBS or something.  At the very least, lower investment and expectations for this movie will decrease your disappointment.