Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Stars: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Tea Leoni, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck
The Buzz: Stuck in development hell since 2006, Tower Heist was Eddie Murphy's pet projectthat he and an all-black comedian cast including Kevin Hart, Dave Chapelle, Tracy Morgan and Martin Lawrence were slated to star in. They would rob the Trump Tower in the initial version, but after several rewrites that changed the tone of the piece, Murphy walked away. However, Murphy was drawn back into the project for the character, Slide.
The Story: A group of employees who work at a luxury condominium estate named The Tower lose their hard earned pension to a Bernie Madoff-like businessman and his Ponzi scheme. The catch: That guy also happens to be their employer. In order to get back their money, the group enlists the help of criminal Slide, hoping to use his criminal expertise with their collective inner knowledge of the building to pull off the heist of their lives. Expensive security, hundreds of floors above ground and a group of people who've never committed a crime in their life before? No problem!
inSing.com thinks: Make no mistake about it, even though Brett Ratner is often the target of abuse online for dumbing down fare like X3: The Last Stand, but when he's in his element, he clearly knows what he is doing. Tower Heist sees a return to the fast-talking-in-your-face bravado that he made famous with his Rush Hour films. It's nothing too smart, in fact, most of the jokes are pretty dumb... but you'll still be laughing. There's nothing subtle about his style, as proven by the first shot of a film, which has the billionaire diving into his rooftop swimming pool that has the image of a US hundred dollar bill on the bottom. This is definitely one of those cases when the material in the form of the screenplay and the director are perfect for each other--loud, brash and pompous.
Of course, having an all-star cast to lead the film doesn't hurt either. Stiller lends lots of his trademark energy as protagonist Josh Kovacs, bringing a frantic pace to the film as he tries to form a gang to perform the heist in time before the billionaire, Arthur Shaw, gets acquitted. The seemingly random mix of characters blends very well, lending a weird mix of synergy to the film. In particular, Tea Leoni delivers a classic performance as an often drunk FBI agent who is in charge of investigating the case, as well as Matthew Broderick, a bankrupt genius “Wall Street guy” whose understated timidness and dry wit shines through in a cast and movie where over-the-top shtick is the name of the game.
However, the highlight of the movie has to be Eddie Murphy's supporting role as small time criminal, Slide. Especially after the previous decade of miserable attempts at family friendly roles and movies, it's a wonderfully refreshing experience watching Murphy let loose, cussing and shouting at Stiller and gang with no fear. Even though the character is kind of a caricature, (a group of white men need help committing a crime... so they turn to the black guy who hangs out in front of the street? Horrible Bosses already did it this summer) seeing Eddie Murphy reprise his irreverent and wild stand up/Eighties days is too much of a treat to resist.
All in all, Tower Heist is not a game changer in any sense of the word but admittedly, it does its own thing pretty darn good. If you're up for a comedy that is kind of ridiculous and full of steady performances from its cast, this is the film for you. It's simply just pure entertainment.