Thursday, May 31, 2012

Down in the depths on the 90th floor

No va.  The movie, not the car.
I'm serious:  Tower Heist (2011) should be taught in film school.  It has the worst, clumsiest, most textbook-awful exposition in many, many years.  I mean, there is actually a scene in which the loveable old doorman tells Ben Stiller he is about to retire and he is shore lookin' forward to that there pension, you bet and by golly.  And the guy rased the subject -- it didn't flow out of any previous dialogue or dramatic situation.  It was if he thought, "Oh, crap, I forgot to drop that exposition into this scene.  I better get it in here now."  There are a dozen examples of information dropped like steaming cups of boiling lead over a film that is not very light on its feet to begin with.

Does Eddie Murphy care about anything anymore?  He's not even good at being Eddie Murphy anymore, even as a supporting guest star.  Producers, you can save a lot of money and hire Jay Pharoah to be Eddie Murphy.  Add to that Alan Alda's sweaty incompetence as a villain, and you have an filmgoing experience that resembles going to see a friend in a community theater production and concentrating with all your mind to find things you can mentioned you liked about it.

About Mr. Alda -- we refer to our great movie villains as "the man/woman you love to hate."  The greats -- Basil Rathbone, Alan Rickman, Kevin Spacey, Cruella DeVille all relish their badness, revel in it.  They are unrepentant and unapologetic.  Alda constantly looks sorry for being so mean, and one expects him to follow his wickedest lines with, "I'm sorry, I didn't really mean that.  I've been so stressed lately.  How can I make that up to you?"  It's just not in his enjoyable but fairly narrow range as an actor.  He can be a narcissistic shit, but he just doesn't have that psychic mustache he can twirl.

I'm sure the producers congratulated themselves on not making Gaborey Sidibe the subject of any fat jokes, instead making her a super-competent safe cracker.  Except that she then embarks on a "hilarious" liaison with Eddie Murphy.  Why do I know it's supposed to be "hilarious."  Because she's fat.  And fat people wanting and getting sex is always unquestionably funny, right?   It's not like they're regular people or anything.

It is left to Matthew Broderick, who has evidently graduated from quirky if adenoidal young leading man to burned-out and/or grumpy adenoidal middle-aged man, but there is no doubt that he is still as deft with a wisecrack as he was on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs back during the Reagan administration.  He should be glad to have been moved from starter to reliever, because he is a natural clean-up man.

Look, if the picture comes on TV on a Friday when you have nothing to do and the alternative is to go around to your wife's sister and choke down her bone-dry carrot cake, watch this movie.  Come to think of it, you still could read a book.  Maybe a book about screenwriting, which the people who made Tower Heist have clearly never done.

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