Brett Ratner has been M.I.A. since he concluded the Rush Hour trilogy over four years ago. And while the director isn’t the most critically loved, the box office seems to give him some fuel in going forward. Now, Ratner is back with Tower Heist, an all-new comedy with a cast led by Ben Stiller. The story features a theft with a Ponzi scheme twist, but is the film a comedic feat worthy of your cash, or are they simply duping money away from you too?
Queens native Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) has managed one of the most luxurious and well-secured residences in New York City for more than a decade. Under his watchful eye, nothing goes undetected. In the swankiest unit atop Josh’s building, Wall Street titan Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is under house arrest after being caught stealing two billion from his investors. The hardest hit among those he defrauded? The tower staffers whose pensions he was entrusted to manage. With only days before Arthur gets away with the perfect crime, Josh’s crew turns to petty crook Slide (Eddie Murphy) to plan the nearly impossible…to steal what they are sure is hidden in Arthur’s guarded condo. Though amateurs, these rookie thieves know the building better than anyone. Turns out they’ve been casing the place for years, they just didn’t know it.
The film has a mix share of laughs and action, and Eddie Murphy returns to doing what he does best (which has been absent for some time now). But, Tower Heist is far from a fantastic film. The first act is basically void of any life, while the second has a decent amount of laughs, before the final stretch packs in plenty of action with comedic beats here and there. The cast is one of the more successful things, while an ending that seems just a bit abrupt may leave you a bit unhappy.
The best way to describe Tower Heist is the following statement: a lazier version of Ocean’s Eleven with less men, laughs, and wit. A slow start doesn’t help and there are plenty of jokes that are thrown at you, but never hit. But, the well-casted crew and select comedic performances help the audience throw a little bit of fun into the mix, even if the fun is mildly forgettable.
From the get go, the heist is basically idiotic. The entire team goes out on a limb for a safe that they honestly aren’t even sure is there. Regardless, they all risk their asses to breach the wall anyways. The plan is a little smart, but still undercooked, especially when the fact that this is “the most high-tech security system in the world” is still prone to the easiest entrance ever. The worst part is that by the time they get to the execution, everyone is doing so many things, it’s a bumbling miracle none of them get caught.
From there, the heist gets even more ridiculous, ranging from a solid gold car that scales the building to a room where the hotel’s general manager is still locked into, and apparently forgotten. From there, the focus is on getting the car down the building internally, which never happens and is instead pushed out on to the roof quickly as they all escape in an off-screen event.
The best performances come from Eddie Murphy, whom despite all his hilarious moments is still a character that you can’t fully embrace due to his basic criminal core, and Michael Pena, the willing and idiotic elevator operator who has some of the best one liners and gags in the film. Matthew Broderick has a great share of quirks, while Casey Affleck also does a decent share.
Ben Stiller leads them all as they have an unexpected chemistry that fits well, while Gabourey Sidibe is the odd one out, displaying an odd Jamaican accent with an oafish character you can never take seriously. Finally, Tea Leoni is one of those pleasant surprises as FBI Agent Denham, who adds a perfect feminine touch, and one of her best comedic roles to date (which, unfortunately, isn’t saying much).
While the film really hits its climax in quality with the theft itself, everyone is given a happy ending, except for Stiller’s character. Stiller sacrifices himself, and when he’s given his time, you’d expect some sort of flashforward that shows us where each character ended up. Instead, we get both a satisfying end with everyone happy, but also disappointing as both the hero and the villain are locked up behind bars.
The amount of plot holes and unrealistic occurrences definitely go on and on, and I will definitely refrain from listing any more. That’s one of the most frustrating aspects of the entire film: the script. There’s plenty of action, and the performances make it nearly a passable effort. However, the film at its core is supposed to be a comedy. There are large voids of film where the laughs are completely gone, and what is brought forth has no one laughing.
That’s the biggest problem with Tower Heist. There are points where the film can have you completely invested in the characters, the moment, and the plan itself, but when its all happening, logic isn’t even a factor anymore, as it’s thrown the same place as Arthur Shaw’s car: out the window. There are even elements that I wouldn’t call smart, but sly. Mostly due in fact because the typical moviegoer will love the film for its outward appearances, but really upon deeper analysis, Tower Heist has more than a share of problems.
I could think of plenty worse ways to spend two hours on a weekend, but I could also think of many better ones. All the elements that are at least likable in Tower Heist are just barely there, and by the end of it all, you’d wish they had increased it some more, instead of throwing plenty of the decrepit components. And yes, that even includes Eddie Murphy.
Overall, Tower Heist has handful of laughs, but a barrel of problems. The enjoyable aspects definitely stand out, but the film is plenty forgettable. After a mind-numbing first third, the film struggles to find any kind of balance between comedy that actually lands, and a plot that’s worth believing. There’s still penty of action and fun to be had, and the cast is one of the highlights, but in the end, you’d just wish they had been smarter with the entire ordeal. It’s not the worst film of the year, but it’s far from an honorable mention.