Eddie Murphy’s journey from edgy comedian to beloved family entertainer has been rough trip. Kiddie comedies and daddy roles sidelined him for much of the last twenty years, and for every highpoint, like the Donkey character in “Shrek” there is a “Norbit.” For every “Dreamgirls,” there’s a “Haunted Mansion” or “Imagine That.” It’s been tough to be an Eddie Murphy fan, watching his trademarked acerbic comedy dulled by fat suits. Anyway, his transformation was never entirely convincing because Murphy always had too much edge to be Bill Cosby or even Steve Martin.
“Tower Heist,” his new film with Ben Stiller and an all-star ensemble cast, sees him turning to the style that made him famous in movies like “48 Hours” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” Question is, will audiences still care?
Directed by “Rush Hour’s” Brett Ratner, the movie has a ripped-from-the-headlines story. Allan Alda is Arthur Shaw, a Bernie Madoff character whose Ponzi scheme defrauded his clients out of millions of dollars. Among those burned by his scam were the employees of his luxury high rise. Having lost their pension plan the building’s manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) concocts a plan to break into Shaw’s apartment and steal his personal $20 million stash. When his posse of employees—Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe—prove to be less than criminally adept Kovacs brings in an old friend and ex-con, Slide (Murphy) to run the operation.
It’s nice to see Eddie Murphy in a movie that allows him to drop his beloved family entertainer guise and bring back some of the bravado that we loved in movies like 48 Hours. It’s just too bad the movie feels like it was made thirty years ago. Despite its Bernie Madoff storyline it feels old fashioned.
For the most part it’s rescued by the chemistry of the cast who bring some much needed fun to this preposterous story.
Of the ensemble Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe are the standouts. Pena has great comic timing and perpetual dazed look on his face and Sidibe shows that she can do something other than the ennui of “Precious.”
Also interesting is watching Ben Stiller as the straight man to Murphy’s wisecracks. The movie definitely picks up when Murphy is on screen. Loved hearing Murphyisms like, “I will blow your face clean off your face!”
Despite the cast, however, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the actual robbery, despite a few twists here and there was completely unbelievable. I don’t mind suspending part of my disbelief but the sheer lunacy of the crime took me out of the movie.