Sunday, November 6, 2011

Movie Review: Tower Heist

With Tower Heist, I saw glimpses of an old friend, the old Eddie Murphy. You know the Eddie Murphy who made a career out of playing the street-smart, wise-ass. The Eddie Murphy whom adults found funny in a host of movies from  Delirious and Raw to Trading Places, 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop and even to Boomerang. This was the pre-fatherhood Eddie before he devoted himself to family friendly fare like Shrek, Daddy Daycare, The Nutty Professor and The Haunted Mansion. Old Eddie … we missed you!

I say we saw glimpses of the old Eddie in Tower Heist because Tower Heist is an ensemble piece and not an exclusive Eddie Murphy vehicle. In Tower Heist, Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, the manager of the swankiest address in New York City. He knows every tenant and he and his staff are there to meet their every need … even before they know they need it . Among the staff are: brother-in-law, concierge and soon-to-be first time dad Charlie (Casey Affleck), doorman extraordinaire and hopeful retiree Lester (Stephen Henderson), Jamaican maid in search of a green card husband, Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), and new elevator operator Enrique (Michael Pena). Their richest resident is Arthur Cross (Alan Alda) an investment banker who has recently been given control of the staff’s pensions (with a promise that he can triple their returns).

Problems arise when the Feds (led by Tea Leoni) arrest Arthur for defrauding his investors. Josh learns that his entire staff has lost their pensions. Josh loses it too, taking a golf club to Shaw’s beloved car (once owned by Steve McQueen). That reckless, though understandable act, leads Josh, Charlie and new guy Enrique to get fired. It’s then that together with evicted former Wall St. Whiz Kid, Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), that they decide to get their money back. Of course, they need a real robber. Enter, Slide (Murphy), a career criminal that lives in Josh’s neighborhood and who actually went to day care with Slide back in the day.

With the Occupy Wall Streeters in the news daily and the bitter taste of bank bail outs and Bernie Madoff still on our collective tongues, Tower Heist is as cathartic as it is funny. A bunch of regular Joes taking down the Wall Street honcho. Yet, Tower Heist isn’t preachy or political. It’s a funny film.

We get some sparks from Murphy but Broderick, Pena and Sidibe are bringing the funny too. Stiller here is more of a straight man who generously allows those around him to help themselves to the punch lines.

There were a few laugh-out loud, moments and lots of chuckles. In fact, many people in my audience cheered at the end.

Murphy’s children range in age from 22 to 9 (plus the one he had with former Spice Girl Mel B is five). I hope he’s ready to at least add some more adult fare to his film choices, even if he doesn’t leave the family films behind for good. He has been missed.  Now, I wonder if he’ll be any good as the hosts of the Oscars come February.

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