Tower Heist

What it's about:

After a group of working stiffs find themselves the victims of the duplicitous dealings of a wealthy Wall Street broker, they conspire to get their own back by breaking into his luxury penthouse apartment and robbing him of a multi-million dollar fortune that he has stashed away.

What we thought:

Tower Heist has a number of things wrong with it but, by the time you reach the end of its surprisingly entertaining 100-odd minutes, there's only one flaw that is of any consequence. This film is preposterous, asinine, unbelievable, fatuous and utterly unmemorable and yet, when you get right down to it, the only real crime that it is genuinely guilty of is one of (as Woody Allen might put it) "insufficient laughter".

What we have here is obviously not high art. Tower Heist is a dopey heist-comedy whose only real goal is to provide a couple of breezy hours of escapist entertainment, which it achieves quite effortlessly. It is, no more and no less than, a slickly put together piece of trashy, feel-good entertainment.

Is Brett Ratner's notoriously hacky direction blandly business-like? Yes it is. Does the hole-ridden plot fall to pieces the minute you think about it? Of course it does. Does every single twist and turn and every expensive set piece mangle the laws of physics and set new impossible limits for the willing suspension of disbelief? Yes and yes again. Does any of this really matter when the results are as effortlessly enjoyable as they are here? Not a jot.

Does it matter that a supposed comedy never quite makes the leap from mildly amusing to genuinely funny? Of that, at least, I am less than convinced. However impressive its stunts, how likeable its characters or how brisk its pace, this comedy simply isn't funny enough. There are some titters to be had and you may well find yourself smirking from time to time but if it's belly laughs you're after, I suggest looking elsewhere. That 50/50 - the comedy/drama about a young man's heart-wrenching battle with cancer, also opening this week – is a better bet for proper, solid laughs than Tower Heist, kind of says it all.

The film's lack of hilarity is presumably the writers' fault because the cast are much better than anyone had any right to expect. Alan Alda, as the villainous Ponzi schemer, is always brilliant, but it wouldn't be unfair to expect a comedy with this cast to implode on impact.

On the one hand you have a number of very impressive actors, but actors who are mostly known for their very serious roles. When I think comedy, the last names to come to mind are Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) or Michael Pena (Crash) and, yet, here they are in some very obviously comic roles.

Then there are comic actors of whom we have either heard precious little of in the last decade (Tea Leoni and Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick), or Ben Stiller, a gifted funnyman whose work is the very definition of inconsistent, bouncing from the giddy highs of Tropic Thunder and Zoolander to the embarrassing lows of the Meet the Parents sequels and The Heartbreak Kid.

Most worrisome of all, though, must surely be Eddie Murphy who, aside for talking out of his ass in the Shrek movies and channelling his inner Marvin Gaye in Dreamgirls, has done absolutely nothing of any worth since 1999's Bowfinger.

And yet, though they don't have the best material to work with, the entire cast acquits itself very nicely. Broderick is especially good as a nervous wreck of a man, broken down by Wall Street's crash and burn but it is Murphy who steals the show, providing most of the film's semi-laughs in his least embarrassing role in years that actually does a lot to remind us of just how funny a guy he once was.

And if that alone doesn't justify Tower Heist's existence then I don't know what does.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24