Blu-ray Review: Stellar Ensemble Elevates Relatively Routine ‘Tower Heist’

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CHICAGO – Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist” features a LOT of actors who have proven talents but haven’t made the best career decisions of late. The number of disappointing films that star Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, and Tea Leoni could fill a film festival in Hell. And Ratner has committed his own crimes against celluloid. So, I was dreading “Tower Heist.” There’s nothing to dread here. It’s a mediocre comedy that sometimes even rises above that by virtue of its strong pacing and game ensemble. It’s no classic but it’s surprisingly enjoyable at times, only really falling apart in the final, ludicrous act. Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

Trying to make a star-studded ensemble heist comedy a la “Ocean’s 11” that uses the current financial crisis as its background was actually a pretty clever idea. What if Danny Ocean’s team could take down Bernie Madoff? Or, even better, what if it wasn’t a group of suave criminals like those in Soderbergh’s films but a group of average little men getting back at the power player that screwed them? Given the prominence of the Occupy movement when the film came out in theaters, I’m actually stunned that the timeliness of it all didn’t propel it higher at the box office (although $150 million-plus at the box office is certainly nothing to sneeze at). People will likely be drawn to it on Blu-ray and DVD. Lower your expectations and you’ll be satisfied.

Tower Heist was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 21, 2012
Tower Heist was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 21, 2012
Photo credit: Universal

Stiller deftly plays a manager at a swanky hotel in which the penthouse is occupied by one of the wealthiest men in the world (a clever bit of casting by putting uber-liberal Alan Alda in a role that might have seemed suited to a more conservative-leaning actor). When the Madoff-esque businessman gets arrested (by the lovely Tea Leoni, reuniting with her co-star from the great “Flirting with Disaster”), the hotel staff learns that they’ve had their pensions and 401Ks obliterated by his dirty dealings. Stiller teams with Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, and Gabourey Sidibe to get revenge.

Tower Heist was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 21, 2012
Tower Heist was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 21, 2012
Photo credit: Universal

There’s a bit too much set-up in “Tower Heist” as the very title serves as a spoiler for the inevitable final act and so we’re kind of just waiting for the action to get started. And when it does the actual heist is a bit under-written and just silly. Not to spoil anything but there are several elements of the actual heist that just can’t happen in the real world. At all. I know one shouldn’t demand that a movie this silly make sense, but wouldn’t it be nice if it did?

Having said that, the film is surprisingly light on its feet, especially given the heavy failures of Ratner’s career in the past. Everyone seems to be honestly enjoying making the film and that can be infectious. Stiller carries the piece more than he has many of his recent comedies, actually finding chemistry with Leoni, an actress I always hoped would find more parts suitable to her talents. And a supporting cast that includes Oscar nominees like Affleck and Sidibe certainly isn’t a bad one. Sometimes star power can drag a movie down. Here, it’s the best thing about it.

As for the Blu-ray, it includes two alternate endings that are really just scenes that could have been tacked on the end instead of where it ends now. They’re more “deleted epilogues” than actual changes to the action. They’re both interesting and both were wisely cut. The typically-strong-for-Universal release also includes deleted scenes, Second Screen functionality, a DVD version, a digital copy, and a commentary. Universal remains one of the best in the world of Blu-ray. Even for films like “Tower Heist,” which one might not expect to get all the bells and whistles.

Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead an all-star cast in this hilarious comedy caper about a luxury condo manager (Stiller) who leads a staff of workers to seek payback on the Wall Street swindler (Alan Alda) who defrauded them. With only days until the billionaire gets away with the perfect crime, the unlikely crew of amateur thieves enlists the help of petty crook Slide (Murphy) to steal the $20 million they’re sure is hidden in the penthouse. From the director of the Rush Hour series, “Tower Heist is so fun, it’s criminal!” (Associated Press)

Special Features:
Universal’s Second Screen
Flick View
2 Alternate Endings
Gag Reel
Tower Heist Video Diary
Plotting Tower Heist
Feature Commentary with Diretor Brett Ratner, Editor Mark Helfrich and Co-Writers Ted Griffin
Pocket Blu
D-Box Motion Code Enabled
Ultraviolet Digital Copy Of Feature Film

“Tower Heist” stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, and Michael Pena. It was directed by Brett Ratner. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 21st, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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