"Tower Heist" Gives the Occupiers a Film to Call Their Own

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 3, 2011

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Grade: C-

The Occupy movement now has a crappy Hollywood blockbuster to call its own.  

Brett Ratner’s relentlessly pandering Ocean's 11 knockoff stars Ben Stiller as a “working class” building manager for a multimillion-dollar luxury midtown Manhattan apartment complex. Alan Alda plays the slimy, wannabe Bernie Madoff who has absconded with the staff’s pension funds in a familiar-sounding Ponzi scheme.  

So, with no small amount of homilies about “the plight of everyday people,” Stiller takes the better part of an hour rounding up a crew of hapless misfits to try and rob Alda’s white-collar Scarface. Matthew Broderick walks away with a half-dozen killer line readings in his back pocket as a ruined one-time Wall Street titan, while Casey Affleck and Michael Pena mug for the camera as Stiller’s gang who can’t quite shoot straight.  

The only exciting thing about Tower Heist is that Eddie Murphy—playing a boyhood reprobate pal of Stiller’s—actually seems to be trying again. (It’s been a rough decade or two for us fans.) In full-on fast-talking Billy Ray Valentine mode, Murphy lends these lugubrious proceedings a shot in the arm, constantly hinting at a wilder, filthier movie happening somewhere just outside the margins of the frame.  

In a sad feat of self-cannibalism, Ocean's 11 screenwriter Ted Griffin devotes most of the movie to the labyrinthine logistics of a deja vu caper and loses track of several characters for entire reels on end. Precious’ Gabourey Sidibe struggles mightily with a “comic” Jamaican accent as a safecracker, and Murphy hitting on her provides some of Tower Heist’s few, lonely laughs. These two simply disappear from the film for unconscionable stretches of time, and don’t figure at all into the third act.  

But Stiller’s notorious ego is very well represented, hogging most of the running time with his put-upon Queens drawl (he sounds like a parody of blue-collar Boston, dropping R’s left and right) and is basically martyred in a late-game bid for seriousness that the movie has not remotely earned.     

Brett Ratner continues to be the most tedious, anonymous filmmaker working today, with every cut and music cue arriving exactly where expected. What a dreadful shame that Eddie Murphy finally came back to play for such enervating hackwork.

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