Tower Heist: Of Cheap Thrills

Published: 04 November, 2011 20:42 IST | Suprateek Chatterjee |

It's hard to take a movie seriously, even in fun, when it doesn't take itself seriously, and Tower Heist is proof of this.

Tower Heist
U/A; Action, Comedy
Dir: Brett Ratner
Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Gabourey Sidibe
Rating: * * (out of 5)

Tower Heist, a crime caper featuring an all-star Hollywood cast that includes the likes of Stiller, Murphy and Alda, features a scene which could've been lifted from a David Dhawan's Rascals-like Bollywood trash-fest  wherein the overweight Odessa (Sidibe, of Oscar-nominated Precious fame) has an innuendo-laden conversation with Slide (Murphy), which ends with her wanting to do 'things' with 'his pole'. Don't get me wrong; I like cheap, sex-related humour as much as the next person, provided it's well written. The problem in this case, however, is that not only are the lines badly written, but they're cracked at Sidibe's expense.

In case it isn't clear enough, let me spell out what I'm trying to say here -- they turned an Oscar-nominated actress into Guddi Maruti from every '90s Hindi comedy.

Call this an overreaction, but it's not like the rest of Tower Heist makes up for it. A heist movie involving the staff of a swanky service apartment building attempting to get back at a Bernie Madoff-type character, who has stolen all their money is a premise with potential. A cast this talented, a team of writers and a decent budget at their disposal -- and what they come up with is this underdone sometimes-amusing action-comedy.

The film's first real laugh comes at the 45 minute mark, when the uptight Josh Kovacs (Stiller) bails his neighbour Slide out of prison, in the hope of using his criminal expertise to rob supposed Ponzi scheme perpetrator Arthur Shaw (Alda). Stiller, who is saddled with a lazily written role he's played far too many times, makes a meek attempt at being funny with his poker-faced expressions and deadpan dialogue delivery. Thankfully, Murphy makes amends by approaching this scene like a hungry lion approaching a deer carcass and chewing up scenery in the most enjoyable manner possible.

Subtlety is better than overacting, but not when the actors underplay to the extent that they look genuinely disinterested. Broderick, who plays a ruined banker named Mr Fitzhugh, is guiltiest in this regard, with his ineffectual performance ruining the illusion required to enjoy this kind of a movie. Director Ratner should know this; after all, he directed the highly enjoyable Rush Hour films. However, the difference in those films was that Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker played their roles with utmost sincerity with utter disregard for screenwriting oversights. Here, the only noteworthy exception amongst the cast is Murphy.

It's hard to take a movie seriously, even in fun, when it doesn't take itself seriously, and Tower Heist is proof of this. 

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