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Tower Heist (2011)

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Score: 8/10

Genre: Heist Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.

Release Date: November 4th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Brett Ratner Actors: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Judd Hirsch, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe, Nina Arianda, Christina Calph, Jessica Szohr

T

he premise of a group of disgruntled hotel employees robbing a corrupt investor of $20 million in cash doesn’t immediately bring to mind the workings of a laugh-out-loud comedy. But “Tower Heist” provides just that. A colorful array of characters and inspired offbeat dialogue blend together with hilarious effect to create a film that carefully fleshes out its subjects before building scene after scene of increasingly clever lunacy. Ben Stiller opts for more of a straight-man role with his lead character and allows his cohorts to deliver the majority of the comical antics. With veteran comedy actors Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick, plus notable turns by Michael Pena, Casey Affleck, and Gabourey Sidibe, “Tower Heist” has no shortage of star power or laughs.

Devoted Tower Hotel manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) loves his hectic job of catering to the building’s demanding clientele. But when Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), the hotel’s penthouse resident and employees’ pension investor, is exposed as a fraud and placed under house arrest by the FBI, Josh determines to get even. Devising a plan to take back $20 million from the extortionate businessman, Kovacs assembles a team of Tower employees, including concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), elevator operator Enrique (Michael Pena), and maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), plus easygoing former finance wizard Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and professional thief Slide (Eddie Murphy), to attempt his outlandish scheme.

It comes as no surprise that “Tower Heist” is both funny and genuinely suspenseful, especially with Brett Ratner (the “Rush Hour” films) at the helm. The mix of humor and adventure certainly has its appeal, and here he shows once again that he knows how to fuse the two without either quality eclipsing the other. While the introduction of characters reveals typical traits for Stiller (as the mild-mannered, mistreated nice guy), Alda (a coolly calculating elitist snob) and Pena (the wisecracking, fast-talking, unqualified novice), it’s Broderick and Murphy that steal the show, with unusual characteristics for each actor; a mousy, disheartened math wiz and a foulmouthed, mean-spirited conman, respectively. Broderick provides some of the funniest comedy relief quips and Murphy snags the exotic role of playing a stereotypically over-the-top hood that slowly transforms into the cheerier “Beverly Hills Cop” persona audiences find most endearing.

But the two strongest aspects of “Tower Heist” are the music and the editing, which tie into the smartly constructed screenplay. The catchy score by Christophe Beck is impressively thrilling and pays homage to the oddly appealing discordance of an uncommon time signature (something other than 4/4, not unlike Lalo Schifrin’s famous “Mission: Impossible” tune). The editing is equally consequential, including a number of unexpected cuts, as if to avoid filming either difficult scenes or ideas that might rapidly diminish in hilarity. During burglary training and the actual robbery, shots end abruptly; perhaps the setup was leading to a fizzle, the details were never meant to be shown, or the editor knew it would be funnier to leave the audience hanging. The dialogue similarly goes off in a tangent, quite humorously, generally when ineptitude or the fairer sex sidetracks the characters’ conversations. Stiller’s comedies tend to poke fun at himself, but almost always in a more dignified manner than comedians like Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell. In this “Ocean’s Eleven”-like farce, that approach is more rewarding, with laughs that are undeniably more lasting.

– The Massie Twins

 



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