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Nov052011

'Tower Heist' review - Wow, Eddie Murphy is funny again

How the hell do you get Steve McQueen’s red Farrari out of the top of Trump Tower? That’s the conundrum facing Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in Tower Heist. Their solution doesn’t make much sense, but it’s as practical as movies like these get. No one moment of Brett Ratner’s new comedy heist will blow you away, but it’s a surprisingly consistent and funny movie. And hey, it’s the first time Eddie Murphy has been funny outside a Shrek movie in more than a decade. Now that’s worth celebrating. 

The setup

The plot is kind of like a fantasy ending to the Bernie Madoff financial fraud scandal. Alan Alda plays Arthur Shaw, an old man who has screwed over hundreds, maybe thousands of investors so he can live the charmed life in the most expensive suite in “The Tower” (filmed at Trump Tower in Columbus Circle, New York). Not the modest type, he spends his nights doing laps in his very own giant $100 bill swimming pool on the roof. 

Ben Stiller is Josh Kovacs, the straight-laced general manager of The Tower. He says he runs a tight ship, catering and sucking up to his wealthy tenants, often sharing games of chess with good old Shaw. Well, until Shaw is arrested for fraud. As it turns out Kovacs had foolishly invested his entire staff’s pensions with Shaw. Nobody working at The Tower will be retiring anytime soon. 

The heist

And so Kovacs begins organizing an epic heist. He’s convinced that Shaw has a hidden stash of millions. Joining him is his friend Charlie, played by Casey Affleck, a dead-broke Wall Street investor played by Matthew Broderick, and a Jamaican attendant played by Gabourey Sidibe. And the criminal mastermind of the group: none other than a fast-talking Eddie Murphy. The group is a lively bunch, but Murphy is back in his prime here. He’s hilarious. Together, the team concocts an elaborate plan to break into Shaw’s apartment and steal some cash. 

The whole heist is a fun ride and quite hilarious, but don’t pay attention to the details or you’ll lose your buzz. It’s not ridiculous on the grand scale of Fast Five, which has muscle cars dragging bank safes down city streets, but if you pay attention to the details, nothing much makes sense. Characters switch sides like crazy and the film messes with physics more than a few times. And on a larger note, who are the heroes of this movie? Ben Stiller plays a man who seems down and out, but as the General Manager of a facility that charges more than $5 million per apartment, I guarantee he’s making out just fine. A character like his wouldn’t organize a heist, nor would they know how to fake a court order to the FBI.

The verdict

As I said: don’t pay attention to the details. Just have fun. Tower Heist is co-written by the man who wrote the revived Ocean’s Eleven in 2001 and Matchstick Men in 2003. It’s also Brett Ratner’s best film since Rush Hour.  There’s nothing quite like a good heist movie, and the thrill of the heist is strong in this one. Blend in a good dose of classic Eddie Murphy and a decent supporting cast (except Broderick, who doesn’t do much), and you have yourself a good hour and a half of fun. 

Rating:  (Good)

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