Let’s make no mistake about it, Brett Ratner earned his membership in the Smiling Douchebag Hall of Fame years ago. His movies are big, loud messes of awkward race jokes and poorly handled action sequences. His “Rush Hour” trilogy is little more than a collection of loose action sequences strung together with “a black guy and a Chinese guy walk into a bar” jokes and he somehow managed to do more damage to the X-Men franchise than Rob Liefeld.
That being said, very few people can put asses in seats as easy as Ratner. His movies are simple and crowd pleasing, full of opportunities to laugh at the other while feeling vaguely superior. He’s the equivalent of vaguely racist, aggressively misogynistic cottage cheese.
So, I was pretty skeptical of him getting ahold of the long in development “Tower Heist.” Originally pitched by Eddie Murphy as an all-black heist movie, it eventually morphed into the super sanitized version it is now and it reeks of Ratner’s dull touch, despite a few cracks of Murphy’s off the cuff style peaking through.
Ben Stiller stars as Josh, the put-upon assistant to a Donald Trump surrogate, played by a slumming Alan Alda. After Alda is arrested on fraud and his employees’ pensions disappear, Stiller brings together a ragtag group of fellow employees to pull a $20 million heist on his former boss.
The missteps come early, primarily through awful casting. Stiller is a guy who’s made his career playing neurotic, obsessive everymen but Ratner throws him into a role where he’s supposed to play a ladies man who’s always in complete control.
The script does even worse by Academy Award nominated Gabourey Sidibe, saddling her with an awful, stereotypical Jamaican accent she can’t handle and embarrassingly sexual dialogue.
The performance with the most hype behind it is still Murphy’s. Returning to the more obscene roles that made him popular, he mostly delivers, stealing every scene he’s in. It’s too bad that he’s stuck with dialogue that’s little more than a series of inner city stereotypes and Tracy Jordan-esque nonsensical riffs. He gets by with his trademark manic pace, but it’s by no means a revelation for a failing actor who needs one.
After a rough first hour, the movie does pick up considerably when the heist begins. It’s nothing horribly original, but it works well and gets the plot moving in the right direction. A better director could have brought a little more fun and excitement to the scenes, but it’s serviceable and doesn’t do anything original or unexpected.
Ultimately the biggest problem “Tower Heist” faces is that it’s utterly forgettable. There’s nothing here that’ll stick with viewers in this vaguely funny, rarely exciting caper comedy.