DVD Review - Tower Heist

Today is Eddie Murphy's birthday. The Oscar-nominated comedian, Brooklyn-native is 51-years-old, and, as I did last month for Kellan Lutz, I'm going to wish Murphy a happy birthday by reviewing his latest film released onto DVD. First off, I have to admit that I love Eddie Murphy. I remember him when he was on Saturday Night Live back in the early 1980s. His Buckwheat character was one of my favorites.

When he left that show in 1984, he became a star with his breakout hit Beverly Hills Cop, which went on to gross over $200 million in the box office. Murphy's two films prior, 48 HRS (1982) and Trading Places (1983) had already proven his appeal, but it was Beverly Hills Cop that really pushed him into the stars. He did a series of movies after that, which performed relatively well, with the standout being Coming to America (1988), his last great film for nearly a decade, at least not until The Nutty Professor (1996).

After that, for the next 15 years, Murphy would do mainly family films. He really got away from the adult and edgy stuff that was perhaps punctuated with Eddie Murphy Raw (1987). In the past decade or so, that guy, that adult and edgy guy, was all but gone, possibly dead. There were echoes of him, here and there, but it felt like Murphy was past his prime as a powerful comic. Strangely, Tower Heist is a return to form for Murphy. His performance here is almost reminiscent of his early 80s performances, which I liked.

This movie drew headlines last year when Universal Pictures announced it would make this title available to cable subscribers shortly after its theatrical release. Exhibitors, the big theater chains, revolted against this idea. Some even threatened not to screen the movie in theaters if Universal did this. Under pressure, Universal abandoned the cable subscribers' early access.

It's funny because Universal, like many movie studios, tried to do this as a way of making more money. With DVD sales declining and cable VOD rising, this seemed like a logical move, except it steps on the toes of exhibitors. The exhibitors feel that it's more than that even. The exhibitors feel that the studios were trying to steal from them. It's all funny because this movie is also about people stealing from others.

Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovacs, the manager of a luxury apartment building, known as The Tower. It's a residential building but it's run like a five-star hotel, and the richest occupant is Arthur Shaw, played by Alan Alda. Kovacs discovers that Shaw is essentially a Bernie Madoff type who has stolen the retirement funds of all the workers at The Tower. Kovacs, in the spirit of Robin Hood, comes up with a plan to steal from Shaw some of the fortune he had stashed away in his Tower apartment.

There is a scene where a man who lost everything at the hands of Shaw tries to kill himself in the exact same manner as a man in Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Casey Affleck plays Charlie, a concierge who Kovacs enlists to help with the robbery. Affleck's presence in this type of scenario immediately brought back memories of Ocean's Eleven (2001), which Affleck also co-starred. Tower Heist is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps meets Ocean's Eleven, but nowhere near as powerful as either.

Eddie Murphy co-stars as Slide, a criminal who Kovacs knew as a child. Murphy's presence in this movie isn't as pronounced as its marketing would lead to believe, but overwhelmingly he is the funniest thing about this film. His best scene is by far the scene where he nearly crashes Kovacs' car and Kovacs has to get Slide to remember him. It was classic Eddie Murphy.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.

Favorite Eddie Murphy movies

1. Dreamgirls (2006)
2. Coming to America (1988)
3. Boomerang (1992)
4. Bowfinger (1999)
5. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)


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