Tower Heist (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
23Feb/123

Tower Heist (2011)

Freshly minted like a bland savior returning from the world's least inspiring war, Tower Heist has arrived on DVD to save an untold number of families from awkward small talk with their extended families.  For most of us, there won't be a single twist in the film that isn't telegraphed miles in advance.  But for your aunt or uncle, the one who pushes perhaps a bit too hard for you to get married or have kids, you may be treating them to the most entertaining afternoon in at least the last week or so.

This is a film custom tailored to damn with faint praise.  In addition to serving as a block against discussions about reproduction, it serves as yet another reminder that a number of actors and actresses sometimes do passingly entertaining things to get paid.  The cast is a rogue's gallery of people who should be finding better work by now, but to no surprise have not.  Ben Stiller is no stranger to the bland but still creeps in with something like Tropic Thunder every few years to prove he's got some daggers in him, but this is just another payday for him and his cohorts off to rob the vault.

That mild level of disappointment aside, I can't hate the film.  Brett Ratner has proven himself beyond my hate.  He's the cinematic equivalent of smooth contemporary adult jazz on the long car ride home.  The only thing missing from his films to truly push them into comatose relaxation is the presence of a Casey Kasem DJ to guide his films into the closing credits.  What I'm trying to say is this, we will have found the ultimate tool for insomniacs if Ratner ever decides to do a noir tinged narrated by Kasem.  Such a product will produce deafening levels of pleasant snores.

All this is, of course, a distraction from the fact that there just isn't that much to talk about when it comes to Tower Heist.  This is one of the projects Ratner wanted to work on for years ever since he fell in love with some of the old heist flicks like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.  But I felt no love of the heist during Tower's run-time.  Ratner showed he has not added anything to his visual bag of tricks, filming conversations in the same medium-close-shot-reverse shot pattern that the dialogue just flounders onscreen.

To the screenwriters' (Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson) credit, they try awful hard to give the words a zest.  I liked that the people enlisted to steal money from the evil corporate bad guy all have an obsession with lesser known heist flicks involving Hitler and conspiracy films about wayward dolphins.  There are still moments for a bit of genuine comedic absurdity too, involving a potential "gauntlet of lesbians" (which plays off not offensively at all, not easy to do) and a nice twist on the old cliche of the frisky foreign maid.  But it just feels like a made for dummies retread of Ocean's Eleven, which Ted Griffin had a hand in writing as well, and points out everyone's motivation every step of the way.

A couple of the performances still managed to surprise me.  I love Casey Affleck's unique voice and breathy nervousness during Tower, and even though he's shoehorned into the marriage plot he still manages a number of really funny moments in an underdeveloped part of the film.  The real standout is Gabourey Sidibe, in her first wide-release role since Precious, proving she wasn't a hasty nominee for the Oscar that year.  She reminds me of Queen Latifah in her glory years, but a lot more playful, and with the same sense of self-confidence.  Heck, she even manages to pull off that accent she was written to have with no complaints, and I've seen Brando falter there.

But that's all the faint praise I can muster.  The rest is a certain sad irony that this film was released in the height of our recent culture war between the 1% and the rest of us.  Aside from Ms. Sidibe, I don't think anyone involved really remembers what it's been like to be a working stiff.  The New York of Tower is too clean, plots are resolved too nicely, and we never get a real sense of the frustration many have to deal with on a daily basis.

For Eddie Murphy, all I can say is he passed his glory point thirty years ago, and I don't much like his films from that period either.  So his much ballyhooed return to form is just a sad acknowledgement that some things aren't nearly as good as you remember, and casting for nostalgia rarely works - and on this note the less said about Mathew Broderick the better.

Tower did not have to be a hard-hitting or bitingly satiric look at that time (which, like most culture flashes, seems to have passed).  I just didn't want it to be as boring and pristine as it is.  We just have to accept that's the only kind of movie Brett Ratner knows how to make.  If he could take the fangs out of Hannibal Lecter, no one should be surprised he is tone-deaf to the concerns of the working class and to comedy.

Tower Heist (2011)
Directed by Brett Ratner.
Screenplay by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson.
Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Alan Alda.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Its very worthy share, I have not attend this type of nice post for long while. Tower Heist is one of the exciting movie people love this. I’m so happy to read about it here. Thank you!

  2. Made me laugh and held my interest more than it should have, given how sloppy it is. Call it an acceptable bit of B-minus work from a C student. Good review Andrew. Eddie really had me laughing here but he wasn’t the only one.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan, your smile-worthy grading scale is very apt. I laughed once, didn’t hate myself, but got bored fast, so it was a lot better than most.


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