Saturday, November 12, 2011

“Tower Heist” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the new comedy “Tower Heist”, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy and directed by Brett Ratner.


When employees of a luxury apartment building learn they’ve been bilked out of their life savings by one of the building’s wealthy residents, they decide to get revenge by stealing back their money from him – but since none of them are professional thieves, can their plan have any possibility of succeeding?


As the building manager for an elite high-rise Manhattan apartment building, Josh (Stiller) is a hard-working professional dedicated to his job of serving the needs of the building’s residents – including and especially Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a rich Wall Street executive well-respected for his investment acumen. It is with great shock and horror, then, when Josh and his fellow employees learn that Shaw has been arrested by the FBI because he’s swindled people out of their life savings – and what makes matters even worse is the fact that the building workers were all victims as well. Shortly thereafter, Shaw makes bail but is held in his apartment under house arrest; a furious Josh confronts him over the matter and winds up being fired by the General Manager (Judd Hirsch) for his outburst.

Out of a job – along with a couple of his colleagues found guilty by association – Josh decides to get revenge. Initially, he sets out to cooperate as fully as possible with the authorities by providing information to the FBI Agent in charge of the case (Tea Leoni), but his efforts go unappreciated because he can’t offer them anything that they don’t already know from their own investigation. However, knowing of a hidden safe in Shaw’s apartment, Josh then gets inspired to rob Shaw both as revenge and in an effort to regain everyone’s money. Realizing that he can’t pull this off by himself, he enlists the aid of his former co-workers – but when they figure out that breaking into the safe will be harder than they imagined, Josh is forced to cut in his neighbor, Slide (Murphy) to assist them. With considerably more experience in these matters, it is hoped that Slide will provide them with the level of professionalism they are lacking.

Josh conceives of a cunning plan to have Shaw legally out of his apartment on Thanksgiving Day – and with the nearby Macy’s parade to serve as something of a distraction, Josh and his crew will use this as an opportunity to relieve Shaw of everyone’s money. On the day of the robbery, Josh discovers that some of the members of his team have betrayed him – hoping to avoid being foiled by their traitorous actions, Josh quickly amends his plans on the fly. But is Josh clever enough to pull this off – and can he avoid being caught in the process?


This was something of an unusual flick to be run in my movie class for several reasons – not the least of which being the patently obvious fact that it had already been released last weekend (we typically see films before they reach the theaters). Our instructor explained that the reason for this was due to the desire of director Brett Ratner, a former student of this very same movie class some years ago, wanting the film shown in this setting so that he could attend the screening and be the subject of the evening’s interview. Unfortunately, he had to reschedule and was unable to make it into town prior to the movie’s opening so we wound up with it this week – however, due to having to remain in Hollywood to perform some emergency damage control as a result of his recent ouster as Academy Awards producer, he was still unable to attend class for the interview … but we saw the movie nevertheless …

Anyway, back to the movie itself: “Tower Heist” is a pleasant enough comedy, although it’s hardly what you might consider a laugh-riot. The movie doesn’t truly become a comedy until Eddie Murphy’s character becomes more prominent in the story line; before that, he’s mostly a secondary character – despite the dual billing, this is really more of a Ben Stiller vehicle, so if you’re expecting to see both stars with an equal amount of screen time, you’ll be greatly disappointed. Having said that, however, Murphy’s moments are without a doubt among the best scenes in the movie; it’s been far too long since we’ve seen him this funny and you wind up wishing his role was bigger. If there was ever a good example of the old “always leave them wanting more” philosophy, this would surely be it, at least as far as Murphy is concerned.

As stated above, the instructor had to make some last minute adjustments insofar as the scheduled interview was concerned; our guest was Bill Carraro, who had two screen credits in “Tower Heist” –Executive Producer and Production Manager. While this might not sound particularly glamorous, it actually made for an interesting interview because of his dual roles in the production; Carraro told some fascinating stories about the experience because of his deep involvement in “Tower Heist” scheduling, giving us great insight into the filmmaking process behind a major Hollywood movie. If you don’t already know, the movie originated as a story that was pitched to Universal Studios six years ago by Eddie Murphy, intended to be something of an all-Black version of “Oceans 11”. Also, he told us that the movie’s ending was quite different from what was originally shot – since I don’t usually put Spoilers in my review, I’ll enter it as a comment below so as not to ruin it for those of you who haven’t already seen the movie; however, if you have seen “Tower Heist” and would like to know the original ending, then please click on the comments link below to read about how the original screenplay ended.



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