“Tower Heist” wants to be relevant, and maybe it is. Occupy Wall Streeters march, the economy shakes and it seems as though it might be time for the little guy to scrape some cash off the top dogs. This 99 percent asks to be given some sort of film, or even greater cultural representation of its members’ common causes (however vague those causes may be). And “Tower Heist,” directed by Brett Ratner (“X-Men: The Last Stand”), could be that representation.
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On all accounts, “Heist” appears the likely candidate. Rich man takes from the poor, hardworking folks, and a Robin Hood-like plan emerges to steal back what was taken. This plot, while not original, is at least universally appealing. So is this the anthem of a movement, the call-to-arms for the blue collar?
Not exactly — “Tower Heist” is more a call to conformity. In every sense of the word, the film bends to classic Hollywood movie manufacturing — it’s the kind of produced movie in which you can hear the roundtable discussions of “creative” directors, in which you can see the actors skimming the script, sensing easy money and roles.
“Heist” is comparable to a trip to the gas station. It’s routine, and afterwards, you have the taste of oil in your mouth.
There is a paradox in this type of movie. It yearns to be relatable, so it casts Ben Stiller (“Tropic Thunder”), Eddie Murphy (“Shrek Forever After”) and Matthew Broderick (“Bee Movie”) — cheeky talents and honestly appealing actors in certain ways, but they’re not blue-collar. We know they make millions, they know they make millions and it shows in their performances. That’s why Stiller was so effective in “Tropic Thunder,” and it’s why he doesn’t work in “Heist.”
In taking on “likeable” actors, the movie loses its ability to connect with the audience. The three become a Hollywood wall between the audience and the message of the 99 percent. Casey Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”) and Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) give the film some believability, but not nearly enough.
“Heist” reeks of superficiality. Every frame is shiny. High definition. The cast and crew may be shooting in New York City, but it feels like a backlot. The film slides away on its own glossy surface — it could only have been worse if its makers had opted to shoot it in 3-D.
And ultimately, “Heist” lacks effort. That’s the very thing it claims to be fighting against: Big Hollywood hotshots giving an innocent audience mediocre cookie-cutter flair with the hopes of making a quick buck. The people deserve better, that’s why they’re asking for it.
In addition to this political and cultural irrelevance, “Heist” commits the ultimate crime: It isn’t funny. Everything would be fine if in the end the audience had been given a few moments of laughter. They aren’t, though, and while it’s possible to trash “Heist” for a lack a depth and forward-thinking cinema, realistically this isn’t the goal of the picture. The goal is to be funny, which “Heist” resoundingly fails at.
“Tower Heist” could be the perfect crime. Likeable actors, an accepting cultural climate — some cheap popcorn fun. For its producers, it must have been thought of as a quick job, get in and get out. Make the money and run. And it’s a great scam, but only if America falls for it.