“Tower Heist” Movie Review

     Hey! I have an idea!  Let’s make a movie right out of today’s abysmal economic headlines and populate it with a cast full of has beens who will try to take a serious subject and make it funny!  Its sure to cheer up the public!  That must’ve been the pitch for the new film “Tower Heist” and apparently the studio bought it.  You can probably tell from my tone, the film is near garbage and if the paying public buys into this as a crowd pleaser than they deserve exactly what they are complaining about.  Taking full advantage of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement as well as the Madoff Ponzi scheme, the screenwriters have concocted a story about the dedicated staff at a posh New York high rise and the evil investor who has squandered all of their life savings.

     Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovacs, the buildings General Manager.  After finding out that the building’s prized tenant, investment banker Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), has been targeted in a federal fraud investigation, the worst is realized when Josh tells the rest of the building’s staff that he had Shaw handle their retirement accounts some 12 months before.  Every penny is now gone and the staff wants revenge against the overly arrogant Shaw, whom Alda plays as untouchable by anyone.

     Josh enlists the help of a number of current and former building employees as well as a street criminal called Slide, played by Eddie Murphy.  You’ll probably hear a lot about how this role has allowed Murphy to return to his roots as a motor mouthed funny man.  Problem is, its been so long since we’ve seen Murphy in this type of role that I felt as though he was ripping himself off, trying to revive the comedy of past and much better roles from films like “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop”.  Because of this, Murphy really adds nothing to the proceedings.  He merely functions as a streetwise thug who constantly puts down the rest of Josh’s crew, none of which are meant for this sort of job.

     The job entails Josh, Charlie (Casey Affleck), Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), and Enrique (Michael Pena) breaking into Shaw’s penthouse and stealing $20 million from a safe they believe is hidden in a wall.  Along with Slide, they also bring the safe cracking maid Odessa, played by Gabourey Sidibe.  As you may imagine, not all is as it seems and I won’t give away the pay off, but I will say it is absolutely preposterous.  Never does the film give way to our heroes doing anything really extraordinary or having any special skills or abilities, yet the finale has them pull off the impossible, mostly off screen.  Their loot ends up in places where it is not explained how they got it there and you’ll understand if your stuck seeing this film that explaining it is key.  I was left baffled.

     In the end, we are left with a smirking Ben Stiller walking toward the camera with the exact same smirk he had when he was bringing a fake “Jinxy” to the wedding in “Meet the Parents.”  As if, he has somehow won.  I’m not sure how he can possibly think he has since the item his crew has taken would continue to be tracked by the FBI and cracked Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni).  The ending in which the item is pieced out to the building’s employees would require quite a bit of resources for them to cash in, but that’s not how its presented.  Its presented as if it is some kind of victory for the common folk.

     The film’s director, Brett Ratner, is a veteran of these types of action/comedies, having been responsible for the “Rush Hour” films.  In Tower Heist, he is missing all of the ingredients that made those films fun, as he is working with nothing fresh.  Perhaps an infusion of younger, lesser known talent might have done the trick, but the actors he has cast have all seen better days and are simply unable to recreate what made each of them special at one time.  The script has a few memorable interactions, but ultimately the story is forced and simply has the actors regurgitating dialogue last seen during better times.  GRADE: D-