Did Hollywood somehow know, or orchestrate, this occupy Wall Street movement? That question is posed because the latest batch of theatrical releases, many of which touch upon these protests, already have a built-in marketing campaign. And Tower Heist could benefit from it.
And the 104 minute playful revenge tale of “storming the castle” and sticking it to his lordship (scumbag Wall Street mogul) will probably need these motivated ticket buyers…for this is one-step below mediocre.
Director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour flicks) has created a poor-man’s version of Ocean’s Eleven. And that includes the movie mechanics (directing, storytelling, etc.). Instead of breaking into a hi-tech casino, this batch of characters are trying to breach a penthouse at an elegant complex in the heart of New York City. The interesting aspect is the script isn’t spoofing an Ocean’s type product; for it seems to be trying to project a symbolic message fit for the current times. Problem that arises is the tone of whether it’s trying to be funny, serious or somewhere between is hopelessly lost in a cliff-notes type screenplay that doesn’t have any flow until the final, and surprisingly quasi-suspenseful, climax.
When personable Wall Street kingpin Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) gets busted for a Ponzi scheme, his loyal pawns, who work at his residential tower, all get the financial shaft. Thanks in part to a caring worker’s initiative to put all the staff’s pension funds into Shaw’s invest firm. Now that Shaw is under Federal investigation, his trusted building manager, a.k.a the caring worker, Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) isn’t feeling too good about himself as he deals with the extreme guilt for trusting Shaw.
Yet the guy refuses to let this go without a fight, even though sympathetic Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni) says the chances of recovering any of the monetary loses are slim. Josh decides to go outside the law and puts together a team from the pool of the slighted workers which include elevator operator Dev’Reaux (Michael Pena), concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck) and the buildings only evicted tenant in former Wall Street guru – now pansy – Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick). This group begins planning but realizes they are missing one pertinent element…a true thief to help prepare them. Enter in Slide (Eddie Murphy); a street hustler, who Josh walks by every day all while taking his insults directed at his suit-wearing ass.
Those wanting to see Eddie Murphy getting some of that edge back, well, let’s just say this is a start. Maybe even a gateway to the long-awaited return of R-rated Murphy! While he’s making the most of his time in a supporting capacity – same can be said for Alan Alda -, Stiller, Broderick, Affleck, and Pena are asked to carry this sucker. But this group has seldom chemistry happening, leading to seldom laughs.
In true campy crime-caper fashion, a few more role players show up with Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) playing a housekeeper; Stephen Henderson playing the loyal doorman; and criminally underutilized Judd Hirsch as the tower’s second-in-command. Why are they here? Because they simply fill out the formula for this type of flick. Essentially, none of them are needed or will be remembered. It’s not their fault; it’s the scripts and the shanty editing that bogs the atmosphere down. This just jumps around and highlights what they’re going to do without giving the audience the joy of seeing it unfold. Just about every sequence is missing a middle portion or an explanation how they got from point A to point B. And the middle portions are always what entertain in these flicks. Even the dialogue between the unorthodox crooks fails to even provide cheap laughs.
Although the climax brings in some tension and suspense, the pitch of the characters and dialogue just doesn’t mesh to fully get you going. It’s also at this point where Eddie Murphy is shut down, and aside from a thrilling set-piece involving a car and a high-rise using the backdrop of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, boredom sets in.
Overall, Tower Heist won’t rip you off but you’re definitely not getting your money’s worth based on the cast and projected story. Much like the Occupy Wall Street movement, the people have found one entity to blame for the number of messes we’re in. With regards to this flick, the blame for all the faults fall squarely on a chopped-up screenplay with very little humor outside of Eddie Murphy letting loose here and there. Brett Ratner may be in his element here, but he seems to be having an off-game with this one.
RATING: 2 out of 5