Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quick Cuts: "Tower Heist" Movie Review by Alex Schopp

Release: 2011
Director: Brett Ratner
Written By: Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson
Actors: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Téa Leoni, Alan Alda
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 104 min

I know this review isn't incredibly relevant anymore, but I figure there are still plenty of people out there like myself who passed on this title time and time again, before ultimately getting so bored with other selections at whatever your venue for video rentals that they just decided to go after this one on a flyer.

There isn't much originality to this comedy heist picture, but the cast is an impressive grouping, a lineup that teases us with possible greatness. But do the names on paper translate to what we want out of them on film? Can this ensemble save a seemingly stale script and breathe fresh life into it?

"Tower Heist" is a caper comedy of sorts, about a group of working stiffs who seek revenge on a Wall Street swindler (Alda) who offered his services for investing their pensions. After the workers at the condominium discover the penthouse billionaire stole every last dime that they intrusted in him, they plot the ultimate revenge: a heist to reclaim everything they lost and more.

Ben Stiller headlines the cast as manager of the complex, devising the entire plan to bring down the man who stole their money. This felt like a decent role for Stiller, even though I'm pretty much over his type of humor (though recalling the last film I saw him in, "The Watch", his performance did feel much more authentic here than the disaster that was phoned-in there). Casey Affleck and Matthew Broderick were both very welcome additions to this ensemble cast (Broderick probably more so just for the nostalgic value he added), but the true highlights were Alan Alda and, believe it or not, Eddie Murphy. Neither of these actors given the screen time they deserved to be truly effective, but both seemed allowed to explore with their characters a bit more so than others in the film, and it showed. For Murphy's sake, I expected the worst after some of his disasters in the past decade, but it was actually nice to see there's still some gritty comedy hidden in there, even if it might not be right to carry a film anymore. But his performance does leave me yearning for Murphy to board a few projects more akin to his 1980's work.

There are moments of comedy in the film, even if it's not necessarily laugh-out-loud stuff. And in the end, the ability for me to get though this entire film proved much easier than it seems it should have. The film isn't incredibly creative or inspired, but it's entertaining at times, and the cast keeps you interested enough to not turn it off. The themes of the film feel very culturally relevant, as the economic crisis seems to be hitting everyone these days. While I'm not fluent with the specifics of the economic climate in our country right now, the idea of the rich stealing from the poor to keep for themselves feels like it might hit home with many viewers, even in this comedic fashion.

I think there might be a bit more to the film than the score I have detailed below, but most of that reflects my feelings of missed potential for the picture. While I wasn't expecting anyone to reinvent the wheel here, I can't help but think that with such an impressive cast already on board, with a script that was maybe a bit more raw and allowed to dig its heals in a bit more, this could have been something more powerful than it was. With Brett Ratner ("X-Men: The Last Stand") helming the picture though, I guess I should have expected the easy and more commercially generic route over much artistic effort and attention to script. I saw glimpses of potential, but ultimately, the film dropped the ball in almost every department.

This one is fine if you're looking to kill a couple hours of time; watching a handful of comedy veterans play together on screen has its moments, but the film plays out so formulaic that there are much better options out there than this.