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Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy-starring ‘Tower Heist’ Leaves Critics Dangling

Posted on the 01 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Stiller and Murphy, tower heist

Eddie Murphy's happy that Ben Stiller's just bailed him out of the kids' fare he's been churning out for the past few years. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Towers, money, criminally-minded financiers, getting our own back — no, this isn’t Occupy Wall Street, it’s the topical new Brett Ratner film, Tower Heist, to be released next week in the UK.

The action starts with Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), the proud manager of an exclusive Manhattan high-rise (Trump Tower Columbus Circle), finding out that Madoff-esque Arthur Shaw (Alan Ada) has fleeced the entire staff — including him — of their pensions. After smashing Shaw’s Ferrari, with the help of the other members of staff, he is unceremoniously dismissed. Now free, Kovacs meets up with FBI special agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni), who drunkenly reveals that the crooked financier has $20 million in cash stashed away somewhere in his apartment. Kovacs thinks he knows where it is, and throws together a team of his former coworkers Enrique (Michael Peña) and Charlie (Casey Affleck), jilted stockbroker Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and professional criminal Slide (Eddie Murphy) to nick it.

The film’s already received Donald Trump’s approval — but what do the critics think? Here’s the pick of the bunch:

‘Exuberantly well-done’. Stiller and Murphy are “two of the best fastballs in comedy” and there are plenty of “nifty gags” to keep viewers excited gushed David Edelstein in New York Magazine; he was particularly impressed with the scene when the gang hang a Ferrari from the roof of the building, “our eyes making like yo-yos”.

‘A smoothly engineered crowd-pleaser’. Despite the fact that Ratner hasn’t been able to make the most out of “the sense of outrage and injustice embodied in the film”, Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter still thought the film is “snappy, well cast and streetwise in a well-upholstered New York sort of way”. He loved the film’s “zippy” soundtrack and Dante Zanotti’s cinematography — the opening shot (a rooftop pool whose floor bears the image of an $100 bill) is a “stunner”, he gushed.

A ‘shortage’ of laughs and black people. Variety’s Peter Debruge adjudged that the film doesn’t lend the funny scenes “the madcap hilarity … they so richly deserve”. He was critical of the nearly 40 minutes of set-up and noted that though Murphy envisaged the film as “an all-black answer to Ocean’s Eleven” — the end product was “rethought so many times that he’s now the only black character in the initial crew”.

‘Tolerably enjoyable’. “It’s a little embarrassing that they can’t conceive of doing this without bailing a black criminal out of jail to help, but cultural sensitivity has never been Ratner’s strong suit,” sneered The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Robey, who nevertheless called the film “brash, forgettable fun”.

‘Good grief, Charlie Brown’. Anthony Lane for The New Yorker felt the film had been made in a Cuisinart “blender” — thrown together willy-nilly — and, what’s more, he said, it’s just plain silly. “No audience objects to suspending its disbelief, but we do expect something in return, and the film’s refusal of all known logic has the tang of both indolence and insult,” he opined.

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