REVIEW: Tower Heist

14 10 2012

I’ll set the scene for you: it was a dark and stormy Saturday night.  OK, I don’t know if it was raining, but it was the Saturday of the last weekend of spring break and no one was on campus.  Thus, it was a perfect night for a movie.  I was tired after a long day of flying on airplanes, and I really just wanted a throwaway, lowest-common-denominator type of film.  Something that was pure entertainment and would just make me smile.  Laughing wasn’t even necessary.

Tower Heist,” surprisingly, filled my need quite nicely.  Perhaps my exceptionally low expectations are making my enthusiasm a great deal larger than it actually is, though.  This isn’t a movie I intend to ever watch again, but for the one time I did watch it, the ride was decently enjoyable.   Which is really all I could have wanted from the movie.

Sure, the humor is sophomoric and stupid, and it’s a far cry from Ben Stiller’s “There’s Something About Mary,” Eddie Murphy’s “Beverly Hills Cop,” or Matthew Broderick’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  But this Occupy-esque comedy does manage to deliver a few small satisfactions.  It’s a particularly great time watching Murphy, who seems alive for the first time since “Dreamgirls.”

As a con man brought in by the staff of a hotel to execute a “Mission: Impossible” type plan to rob their über-one percenter boss (Alan Alda as a thinly veiled Bernie Madoff caricature), Murphy has the best lines and the best moments.  You might even see a flash of Axel Foley peeking out from behind the levels of Hollywood hardness.  Go back to the classic comedy if you want the real deal, but “Tower Heist” will do for the moment if you’re folding laundry and it happens to be on Cinemax.  B-

F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 16, 2009)

16 10 2009

The “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) of this week does not precisely fit its billing.  It is not independent (in fact, it’s a studio movie), but unfortunately it is little-known.  Released just last September, “Ghost Town” is one of 2008’s hidden jewels.  It is a witty and wry comedy with a simple yet fantastical premise.  While undergoing a surgical procedure, Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) dies for seven minutes.  He walks out of the operation with a strange side effect – he can see and communicate with the souls of the dead.  While our natural inclination as skeptical moviegoers is to assume that we know the plot just by hearing the premise, “Ghost Town” defies the clichés.  The result is a sentimental movie that tickles the funny bone but warms the heart (and potentially rupturing the tear ducts).

As mentioned earlier, Pincus is unwillingly able to talk to dead people.  One such soul, Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), takes a special interest in Pincus.  Frank wants to use Pincus to tie up some loose ends from his former life.  His widow, the gorgeous paleontologist Gwen (Tea Leoni), is engaged to a man who doesn’t deserve her.  However, the misanthropic Pincus is hardly an ideal wooer, and it will take all that is in him to unleash something resembling charm.  As he grows to know Gwen, patches of sensitivity are revealed beneath his Scrooge-like coating.  But even more unexpectedly, through the ghost that follow him and bark demands incessantly, Pincus begins to discover what a tremendous impact his life could have on everyone around him.

I love a movie with a message, yet it is nearly impossible to find one that has good values without being overly preachy.  “Ghost Town” strikes just the right cord, pushing its message but not getting in your face with it.  The lessons that Pincus learns are applicable to our everyday lives, and they can be summed up in a quote from Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

I implore you to give “Ghost Town” a view sometime soon.  It plays all the time on HBO, so there’s no reason not to watch; resist the temptation to watch some other mindless movie.  If you want some light entertainment with a soul, this is your movie.