In my experience, any actual entertainment value to be found in a Brett Ratner movie has no correlation to the man’s (at best) questionable directorial skills, but to something beyond his control. With the Rush Hour flicks, it was Jackie Chan, while I would have seen X-Men 3 even if David Lynch had directed it. In the case of the tepid Tower Heist, credit must to go to the cast.
A caper comedy, it casts Ben Stiller as the manager of a luxury highrise who, along with fellow building employees Casey Affleck and Michael Peña and evicted resident Matthew Broderick, asks small-time criminal Eddie Murphy for help breaking into the penthouse residence of Fed-indicted rich guy Alan Alda, who swindled the employees out of their pension fund.
I know what you’re thinking: Axel Foley and Ferris Bueller in the same movie! No? Well, anyways, they’re part of the reason the movie contains any laughs at all. It’s great to see Murphy back in the kind of loose, foul-mouthed mode that made him a star, and Broderick perfectly plays against his beloved Bueller persona as a timid, unemployed investment banker.
Stiller himself earns plenty of laughs as the brains of the caper, capably handles his character’s more serious moments, and gets to reunite with Flirting With Disaster co-star Téa Leoni (nicely tough as an FBI agent). Precious‘ Gabourey Sidibe is also plenty funny as a Jamaican maid, while Alda oozes corporate sleaze and Affleck basically provides a connection to the recent Ocean’s 11 flicks.
The film plays best as it introduces us to the characters and sets up their dire situation, with most of the chuckles, admittedly, courtesy of Murphy, who refers to Stiller as “seizure boy” and makes the gang steal merchandise in a mall. Even the way he says “bobby pin” at one point is funny. The best line here, though, belongs to Stiller as he makes a comment about his Chevy Nova.
But Ratner (who also made the Pierce Brosnan heist flick After the Sunset) brings zero zip to the actual robbery, which fairly plods along as the group improbably moves what has to be a prohibitively heavy object between floors. As well a hinted-at Stiller-Leoni romance never gets developed, and Ratner wraps things up on an unsatisfying note, effectively stealing 100 minutes of your time. - [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 2/21/12