Film reviewer Bob Tremblay says: The film commits its most heinous offense by wasting a talented cast. Its victims include Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe and Judd Hirsch. How can a film with a cast this good be so bad? Have you seen the movie? What did you think?
Time to call 911.
"Hello, officer, I'd like to report a crime against humanity. It's called 'Tower Heist,' a film so unfunny that moviegoers will feel like they've been robbed of their time and money."
Cue sirens. Segue to the arrest and the trial where the jury will find the movie guilty by reason of inanity.
The film commits its most heinous offense by wasting a talented cast. Its victims include Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe and Judd Hirsch.
How can a film with a cast this good be so bad? All you have to do is round up the usual suspects: the director and the screenwriter. Here, the director is Brett Ratner, whose claim to fame rests with the "Rush Hour" films where the alleged humor comes from fish-out-of-water premises. Yet "Tower Heist" is so comically flat that it almost made me yearn for the comedic stylings of Chris Tucker. Almost.
As for the script, two screenwriters, Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, take credit, or blame, for "Tower Heist." Let's just say you'll find more humor in a eulogy than in this screenplay. Few jokes work; case in point, a scene that's actually used in the trailer where the characters crack wise about lesbians. So original not. For the record, Nathanson penned two of the three "Rush Hour" films.
"Tower Heist" also has tone problems. How humorous is a film where a character tries to commit suicide? How humorous is a film where a character loses his job, his apartment, his wife and his children? How humorous is a film where a character goes to jail? How humorous is a film where working stiffs lose all their money to a crooked Wall Street billionaire?
Well, the latter could be played for laughs as it was in the infinitely superior "Trading Places." May I suggest renting that film instead of seeing this dud?
"Tower Heist" does have topicality in its favor thanks to Ponzi scheme scumbag, Bernie Madoff. Here, Alda gets to play the Madoff character, Arthur Shaw, and he does play the part with the prerequisite unctuousness. We want him to pay the price for his despicable actions, but he doesn't really suffer the way he should suffer. While loss of fortune and jail time are all well and good, I'm betting Madoff's victims wouldn't have minded seeing him boil in oil for a few hours. Or weeks. Again, compare the fate suffered by Shaw to the one that befalls the wicked Duke brothers in "Trading Places."
Anyway, "Tower Heist" opens with Shaw swimming in a pool, complete with the design of a huge $100 bill, on the rooftop of his penthouse suite in the Tower, a luxury New York condo complex where Josh Kovacs (Stiller) works as the building manager. Josh also acts as a toady of sorts for Shaw, making sure his life runs smoothly. They even play chess together. Josh also took it upon himself to invest all of the employees' pensions with Shaw. Oops.
When Shaw is arrested by the FBI for fraud and all the employees lose their money, Josh decides to rob the sleazy billionaire to get it back. To pull off the crime he enlists the help of his brother-in-law Charlie (Affleck), Tower employees Enrique (Pena) and Odessa (Sidibe), a down-on-his luck former Wall Street whiz Mr. Fitzhugh (Broderick) and Slide (Murphy), a career criminal. Odessa conveniently enough knows how to crack open safes.
This rag-tag team of thieves does provide its shares of laughs thanks to, yet again, a fish-out-of-water premise. Most of the chuckles come courtesy of Murphy, who basically reprises his role of Reggie Hammond in "48 Hrs." He's funny but if you've seen "48 Hrs." you've seen him funnier. He even gets bailed out of jail. Sorry, he doesn't sing "Roxanne."
"Tower Heist" now follows our bad-news burglars on their high-stakes mission where incredibly not everything goes as planned. Again, the comedy only works occasionally. People dangle on a rope. Mr. Fitzhugh tries to act like a tough guy. The Tower's general manager (Hirsch) gets locked in a closet. A car chase takes place during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Look out, Charlie Chaplin.
The film attempts to work in some romance involving Josh and FBI agent Denham (Leoni), but this goes nowhere. Her scene with Josh in a bar, however, supplies one of the film's few bright spots, proving once again what a talented comedienne Leoni is.
As inept as "Tower Heist" is a comedy, it should clean up at the box office as a financially struggling public, fed up with fat cats getting rich at their expense, will likely enjoy seeing a Robin Hood update. Who doesn't like to watching greedy connivers get their comeuppance? Note that Griffin's writing credits include the remake of "Ocean's Eleven."
Like that film, "Tower Heist" has assembled a wonderful ensemble. But while "Ocean's" was directed by the gifted Steven Soderbergh, "Tower Heist" is directed by Ratner. The adjective "gifted" will seldom appear before his name. That said, the adjective "rich" will. Oh, the irony.
By the way, "Tower Heist" contains a semi-downer ending that screams for a sequel. I'm screaming, "No!"
"Tower Heist" is rated PG-13 (for some language and sexual content), 105 minutes; Directed by Brett Ratner