Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tower Heist review; a lot of fun at the movies

I've said it before and I'll say it again; don't judge a movie until you've seen it.  I had an opportunity to see Tower Heist and I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and a slew of other great actors in an action comedy directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour).  Again, don't judge a movie until you've seen it.  No plot here, just opinions, so let's begin!

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
The cast of this movie is enough to make anybody laugh.  But they're very well thought out and everyone contributes to the story.  Ben Stiller is the ring leader trying to get back all the tower employee's pension funds, stolen by a resident (Alan Alda).  He asks for help from his brother in-law (Casey Affleck), along with Michael Peña, Matthew Broderick and of course Eddie Murphy!  The lead cast are the ones primarily planning the heist to steal back everyone's pension money, but the fun doesn't stop there.

The support cast is wonderful!  Téa Leoni plays an FBI agent, Gabourey Sidibe and Judd Hirsch round out an amazing ensemble cast of past and present funny people.  I was pleasantly surprised to find everyone had something to do; they weren't just there for the sake of being there.  Peña gets the best lines in the entire film, with Murphy a close second.  Murphy does what he does best, yell at the white characters, hustle to get by, etc.  Some of it was typical, but still funny nonetheless.

Oh you, Alan Alda you!  Alda is such a good actor.  At the beginning of the movie, we really want to like him, we really do.  But damned if he doesn't turn on a dime and make us want to hate him.  That takes acting chops which he has.  It was also a nice M.A.S.H. reunion with Judd Hirsh.  Nicely done.

The Story
A big difference between this film and the 'Ocean's' films is the story. With Tower Heist, it's very basic.  In the 'Ocean's' films, they show the prep for just about every aspect of the heist, they did not do that with this film.  During the actual heist, we see things being done for the first time, nothing that was prepped earlier.  It was kind of nice, it made us feel like it was all a surprise and kept us guessing as an audience.  The stakes are high for all the characters, so it was easy to let go and believe these "ordinary" people would do this.  I enjoyed it very much.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Coincidences
I understand when we go to the movie, we have to let our imaginations go a little bit.  But there are too many absurd coincidences in the movie to overlook.  Take for example the beginning of the heist.  The entire plan is about to go bad, but BY CHANCE, they sneak in a side door with 6 employees who aren't looking.  Just to get inside where 15-20 more employees aren't looking.  No, that doesn't happen.  Minor set back.

The Editing
A heist movie relies heavily on its editing.  Like I mentioned earlier, they don't tell us too much about the plan until it has been set in motion.  So the editing is crucial to the story.  It felt unfinished.  There were key scenes that should have been cut slower but in typical Ratner fashion, they were fast and frequent.  Ratner has been doing this alongside his editors since Rush Hour.  I can't say I was totally surprised.

The Score/Sound Mixing
It-was-terrible.  The score by Christophe Beck was terrible.  He wrote music featuring horns and acoustics that didn't belong in any of the scenes they were featured in.  The sound mixing was so bad, I asked my wife and other people in the theater if it was just me or was it way off?  They agreed, the mix was way off. I've watched movies all my life; I've seen movies where maybe a small part of the sound mix is off, but nothing like Tower Heist.  These may be small, petty things, but I think it's important to note.

The Verdict:
Much Better Than I Would Have Ever Expected
I have to be honest and say I didn't expect much from this film.  I went in with a negative mindset towards Ratner and his crappy movies of late.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed the Stiller/Murphy dynamic and look forward to Murphy hosting next year's Oscars!  The supporting cast was great, and important to key plot points.  There were obviously some technical aspects of the movie I didn't like, but nothing worth crying about.  Overall a satisfying movie that is worth checking out.

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