04 November 2011

Tower Heist

Ben Stiller, left, and Eddie Murphy are shown in a scene from "Tower Heist."

"Tower Heist" feels like it got a green light based on the timeliness of its premise alone.

Because once you look past that, aside from Eddie Murphy's best comedic performance in many years, there is nothing there.

The movie clearly aims to be a more relevant "Ocean's Eleven," but the scenario—a high-powered Wall Street trader (Alan Alda) is arrested on fraud charges, inspiring a group of employees of the luxury high-rise where he lives to plan a robbery of his condo to pay back him back for losing their pensions—is too grim for the kind of breezy fun that came from knocking off a Vegas casino.

And remember that Steven Soderbergh directed the heck out of "Ocean's Eleven," giving it a jaunty rhythm that carried it through some of the contrivances and plot holes. "Tower Heist" has Brett Ratner at the controls, he of the "Rush Hour" series and the much-maligned "X-Men: The Last Stand."

Ben Stiller, with a New York accent that comes and goes, is the ringleader of the planned heist, his crew filled out by Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe and, as a small-time crook brought in to instruct the others in the ways of crime, Murphy. Respectable names all, but we're not exactly talking George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts here.

The movie is no fun, except when Murphy is around, which isn't nearly enough. The characters are drawn so thin, and the actors given so little of substance in the script, that it's hard to care about their plight. And the film's supposed centerpiece—the heist—is unimaginative and contrived even by heist movie standards.

Where's Danny Ocean when you need him?

Greg’s Grade: D+

(Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. 105 minutes.)

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