Film Review “Tower Heist”

Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Alan Alda
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 44 mins

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

To the current generation of filmgoers, Eddie Murphy is best known as the voice of Donkey in the “Shrek” films.

To another, he’s known for some horrible films, including “Imagine That,” “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “Norbit,” “Meet Dave”…the list goes on. With the exception of his Oscar nominated performance in “Dreamgirls” (and as much as I love Alan Arkin, I’ve got to say that Eddie was robbed on Oscar night), he hasn’t made a good live-action film in almost a decade.

To my generation, he is remembered as one of the brightest comedy stars to ever hit Hollywood. Beginning with “48 Hours” and then following up with such popular films as “Trading Places,” “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Coming to America,” Murphy was the standard that all other comedians were compared to. As he celebrates his 50th birthday it gives me great pleasure to say, “Welcome back, Eddie!”

Josh Kovacs (Stiller) is a busy man. As building manager of The Tower, a pricey condo building in New York City, he is constantly making sure his overly pampered tenants stay happy. Especially Arthur Shaw (Alda), who occupies the penthouse and spends his mornings in the rooftop pool. When Shaw is arrested by the FBI for fraud (think Bernie Madoff), Kovacs reveals to his staff that he had entrusted Shaw with their pension fund which, if the FBI is right, is now worthless. Angered and outraged, Josh hatches a plan with some of his co-workers to rob Shaw of the money he’s stolen and, presumably, hidden in a secret safe in his penthouse. Now he just has to find himself “someone who steals.”

Part heist film, part comedy, “Tower Heist” is an enjoyable ride that boasts no less than five Oscar nominees among the cast. Written by Ted Griffin (“Ocean’s Eleven”) and Jeff Nathanson (“Catch Me If You Can”), “Tower Heist” is a film that rides on the shoulders of its talented cast. Stiller is his usual solid self, while Casey Affleck plays a variation of his “Ocean’s Eleven” character. Alda chews the scenery as the architect of the Ponzi scheme that destroys not only a pension fund but the lives it was supposed to fuel. In his second humorous performance this year, following “30 Minutes or Less,” Michael Pena’ continues to surprise on screen. Matthew Broderick, Judd Hirsch and Tea Leoni fill out the main cast, all of them delivering solid work. But it is Murphy, seemingly channeling himself playing Billy Ray Valentine in “Trading Places,” that steals the show here. It’s so nice to see a funny Eddie Murphy on the big screen again. I welcome him back and hope he’s back to stay.

With the current Occupy Wall Street” movement happening in this country, “Tower Heist” is a very relevant film for these times. The script is full of sharp observances and some hilarious scenes, including one where a discussion of the movie “The Doberman Gang” evolves into “The Boys from Brazil” which in turn evolves into “Boys Don’t Cry.”

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