Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood is a man who has earned the right to do what he wants. Having starred in movies like Dirty Harry, A Fistful of Dollars, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, his acting career in Hollywood spans more than 50 years and is replete with more iconic characters than most actors could ever hope to play.  He has also directed more than 30 feature films as well as several episodes of TV shows, and despite his recent oddball speech at the Republican National Convention he commands respect among his peers like virtually no one else.  After 2008’s Gran Torino Eastwood decided to trade his acting chops for a director’s chair, making movies like Invictus and J Edgar.  But recently, because Clint Eastwood does what Clint Eastwood wants, he took another turn in front of the camera for the baseball movie Trouble with the Curve. While the film is certainly not going to win awards for originality it is an enjoyable and well-told tale of family, friendship, and what happens when time simply passes one by.

Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, a scout for the Atlanta Braves who knows baseball backwards and forwards but couldn’t fix a broken relationship if he had instructions that were written in crayon. The ever-charming Amy Adams is daughter Mickey (named after the great Yankees switch hitter) is a workaholic lawyer (is there any other kind in Hollywood movies?) who can’t find time in her life for anything resembling a relationship, thus her interactions with dear ol’ dad are relegated to the occasional dinner at a local pub while checking text messages on her blackberry.  Gus is so old that his ancient art of baseball scouting has been all but replaced by soulless computers, and has long since given up trying to have a real relationship with Mickey. And then there’s Johnny (Justin Tiberlake, basically playing himself), the plucky upstart scout from the Red Sox who follows Gus around as they scour high school games for up-and-coming talent. Ticking off other boxes on the character checklist are Pete Klein (John Goodman), Gus’s old friend who has been with him in the baseball business through thick and thin, and Philip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), the young upstart Braves scout  who finds players based on spreadsheet data, not gut instinct.  Gus mouns the fact that the great game of baseball has changed, and young punks like Sanderson only see numbers and not real players.  Mickey is this close to making partner at her law firm, but might lose it all thanks to a conniving coworker who also wants the open spot. And Johnny just wants to be the best gosh-darned baseball scout he can be, and maybe score a date with Mickey while he’s at it.

So what’s Clint Eastwood doing in a by-the-numbers dramadey like this? Who cares! Trouble with the Curve is as predictable as they come, but Eastwood’s grizzled old man is second to none–particulary when paired with Adams’ pitch-perfect sweetness.  We’re not so much watching a movie as we are enjoying some solid performances from a few great actors. It’s fun to watch because Eastwood is so pitch-perfect for his role–who else could get a theater full of people to laugh with a line like “Get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you!” as he threatens a bar patron who won’t take no for an answer after striking out with Mickey.  Adams does her best to portray a stressed-out lawyer trying to reconnect with her dad, but she’s not fooling anyone: this is the same girl sang her way into audience hearts as the gleefully innocent Gisele in Disney’s gem Enchanted.  Timberlake…well, no one is ever going to watch him in a movie for his acting chops but he’s clearly enjoying the role and having fun playing the third wheel to Gus and Mickey.  There’s no surprises here, and no cheap deaths for the sake of baiting the Academy.  What you expect is what you get, and when you want two hours of solid if not-exactly-groundbreaking entertainment, you could do a lot worse than this movie.

Rating:

 

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Brave

This movie rocks. Everything about it. The story, the colorful characters, the laughs, the scares, the gorgeous scenery rendered in flawless CGI, and the haunting Celtic soundtrack that wafts through the theater as you sit transfixed. Pixar has done it again, serving up a feast for the eyes and ears, without sacrificing a good story, thought provoking messages, and something for every age, gender and background to relate to.

At the start, we meet Merida (Kelly McDonald), princess of a Scottish kingdom, and Daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Elinor works overtime, trying to teach Merida to be a princess, which generally involves being lady-like. Merida loves to ride horses, shoot arrows and climb mountains, much to her mother’s chagrin, and father’s chuckling pleasure. The best scene in the movie is an early one in which Merida, and her horse, Angus, gallop through a shimmering emerald forest, Merida firing arrows into passing targets while Gaelic siren Julie Fowlis weaves a haunting yarn over fiddles and Celtic flutes. I’d probably buy the DVD just for that scene.

For awhile, it looks like Brave might turn out to be a microwaved version of Aladdin. Merida is horrified when she learns that her mother has invited three other kingdoms to submit contestants for her hand in marriage, and three princes are coming to compete for her in the Highland Games. A series of arguments follows, in which Merida doesn’t want to get married, least of all to someone she’s never met, and her mother tries to remind her of her duty to the kingdom and the importance of stable government. The big day arrives, and the three princes fire arrows at targets to determine who will win her hand. Suddenly, in what initially appears to be the ultimate cliche, a cloaked figure approaches the archery range. Merida throws off the cloak (big surprise, right?) and declares, “I’ll be shooting for my own hand!” As her mother protests, she fires arrows dead center into each target, winning the competition.

Of course, for your average modern fairy tale, this would probably be the climactic scene. Our strong, free spirited heroine throws off the shackles of patriarchal oppression, beats the men at their own game (using weapons, of course), and establishes herself as an independent woman, or at least chooses her own man. It would have been easy, and politically safe, to throw something like that together, but of course, easy doesn’t cut it for Pixar. We still have a lot of movie to go and, while Merida doesn’t exactly end up as a tamed shrew, she soon realizes she has a lot to learn about life in medieval Scotland, not the least of which is putting family and country above her own desires.

Pixar’s talent for story telling especially comes through in the fact that this story relies for its context on a back-story from eons past. This back-story is mentioned only in two very short, and rather washed-out flashbacks, but it still makes perfect sense (within the context of the movie, that is). Using the art of brief, visual story telling Pixar wove the two stories seamlessly together.

That’s probably as much as I should say. Pixar wisely left some major plot points out of the trailers, and it’s better for you to be surprised. It’s no fun reviewing great movies; I can’t say much or I’ll ruin it. I should note that the main reason I’m not giving Brave five stars is that I’ve only watched it once. But I intend to remedy that when it’s out on DVD.

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Men in Black 3

Will Smith, arguably the most bankable Hollywood star in the business, returns from a near 4-year absence with Men in Black 3.  For the life of me I can’t figure out why.  This franchise began 15 years ago to huge success, but the last time we saw the duo of Agents J and K was back in Summer 2002… ten years ago.  And it was a very disappointing outing at that.  With Smith needing an established franchise to return to, the filmmakers attempt to breathe fresh air into a musty framework.  In many respects Men in Black 3 actually delivers some old school action-comedy hijinks, but generally speaking the film fails to match the energy and wit of the first installment.

Smith again plays Agent J ridding the Earth of violent extra terrestrials alongside his aging partner K (Tommy Lee Jones).  K is even more dry, stoic, and blunt than usual.  Something seems to be eating away at him and he harnesses his internal fear from J, until one morning K disappears from existence.  J can’t find him at MIB headquarters and no one seems to have any recollection that he’s been alive during the last 40 years.

Perplexed by K’s literal erasing, J discovers the malevolent plot of a one-armed alien bug named Boris (Jemaine Clement) that was captured and locked up on a lunar prison by K.  Somehow, Boris managed to escape prison, make his way to Earth, and then travel back in time to 1969 and murder K before Boris could be incarcerated.  Not only that, but this altering of time also prevents K from ever having launched an alien shielding force field around the globe that prevents otherworldly invasions.

As the bug clans enter Earth’s atmosphere for a full-scale assault to annihilate the planet, J must travel back in time to 1969 to stop Boris from altering the future and preventing K’s murder.  J teams up with the 27-year-old Agent K played by Josh Brolin, sporting a spot-on impersonation of Jones, and livening up an otherwise forgettable sequel.

Although the plot wreaks of ‘Back to the Future Part II‘ syndrome, Men in Black 3 has matured in comparison to Men in Black II.  Smith mounts the film on his shoulders and treks through some messy writing to find occasional inspired moments of humor—which for the most part surprised me.  After reading of the numerous production issues on this project, I expected nothing from this third outing.  However, I have to say this return to old school cheesy action and plotting was a bit refreshing.  Will Smith returns to a genre that suits him well and it is a great deal of fun to have him back steering a blockbuster film.

It is Brolin, however, that steals the show and makes the mediocrity of the film worth enduring.  Where Jones seems to be phoning in his 15 minutes of screen time, just as he phoned in the last installment, Brolin actually gives 110 percent and provides the audience a window into Agent K’s heart that has been sealed shut since Jones reprised his role ten years ago.  Men in Black 3 also has a ball poking fun at the 1960s and Will Smith’s character in that time period.  Does it go for broke?  No.  But Men in Black 3 is a marginally enjoyable diversion for brisk silly escapist entertainment.  You won’t love it, you won’t hate it.  And you’ll probably forget it before you can even find your neuralizer.

 

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The Artist

The Artist is the first (almost completely) silent film since the 1920s to win the Oscar for Best Picture.  It is also the least likely winner to hit the mainstream circuit and find a broad audience.  I can only reiterate what many critics have already suggested: give the film a chance if you are so inclined.

Of course the film will not please everybody.  Current audiences aren’t merely satisfied with color and sound anymore.  They want loud bangs, bright fireballs, booming bass, and a pair of 3D glasses when the technology is used properly.  The Artist has neither color, nor sound—outside out a score accompanyment and a few select moments of audible dialogue.  How can a black and white silent film possibly compete in such a crowded market with the highest production bells and whistles?

In many ways, The Artist dazzles just the same as some of the biggest visual blockbusters.  Rooted in its characters, the film bellows a winning story about a 1920s silent Hollywood film actor, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), on top of his iconic career as a swashbuckling star.  His marriage may be on the rocks, but he is on top of the world comercially.  He auditions a fair young dancer for his latest film, an instant stunner named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) with whom he shares a spark.

In the midst of casting for his current production, George is introduced to a new filmmaking venture—the use of sound.  He laughs at a test reel of it, believing audiences will never buy into such a gimmick.  To his horror, his world quickly comes crashing down beneath his feet.  His wife (Penelope Ann Miller) forces him out of the house.  His producers oust him from their studio claiming the times are changing to a new world of sound. 

Letting his pride take over, George decides to fund his own wilderness adventure B-film as producer, director, and star.  The film is set to open opposite the new Peppy Miller-starring romantic comedy featuring sound.  Peppy becomes an overnight sensation, skyrocketting her to the top of the A-list.  George’s silent film becomes a colassal failure crippling his finances severely.  Within moments he is practically forgotten, forced to sell all his property via auction and move into a low-rent apartment where his self-loathing and oncoming depression consume him.  Only Peppy may be able to save George from total destruction.

The Artist serves both as a love story and as a story of redemption.  George’s character allows his pride to ruin his life.  I kept wondering why George wouldn’t at least attempt a ‘talkie’ film in an effort to save his career.  That is not who he is, and it becomes clear later on why that avenue wouldn’t suit him as well.  He’s a physical performer, engaging the audience through exaggerated facial expression and a charismatic smile.  His neglecting of his wife and quest for glory from his audience become his downfall.  He’s a man left with nothing when the credits roll on his career.

I appreciated very much the relationship developed between George and Peppy.  They create a strong chemistry without the use of words and only minimal dialogue cards.  Peppy is consistently loyal to George, even when the studio turns him away and his own wife closes the door on him.  The sensational actors, Bérénice Bejo and the now Oscar-winning Jean Dujardin, are a literal joy to watch as performers.  Dujardin as the star of the film, mugs and smiles his way into our hearts initially before tragedy befalls him.  The actor’s physical emoting carries us through his journey.

I’ll admit I was resistant to the idea of a current silent film, especially one fishing for awards.  The thought of it seemed as gimmicky as 3D.  But this is an old fashioned escape in the best sense, and the medium is almost demanded considering the setting and the subject matter where it really proves worth the risk of alienating audiences.  I’m reminded of Steven Spielberg shooting Schindler’s List in black and white.  While the subject matter may be entirely on opposite ends of the spectrum, the idea behind the filmmaking technique is not.  We are literally transported to the world that Director Michel Hazanavicius wanted to take us to.

I think he took a bold risk and made a bold film that functions much the same way as Martin Scorsese’s Hugo does for movie lovers—he reminds us why we love movies.  Their history.  Their power.  The art of the medium.  The more I recollect and think back on The Artist, the more I truly appreciate it, and the more I realize I will probably appreciate it more as time goes on.  I would advise you if you are curious about The Artist, to not be turned off by the idea of it as a silent film in black and white.  Instead, focus on the world of the film and the story that it’s telling.  If you allow yourself to get swept up by it, you won’t regret it.

 

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Courageous

The Kendrick Brothers of Sherwood Bible Church are at it again. No doubt hoping to match their home run of Fireproof of 2008, they’ve shifted their focus from taking on divorce to attacking fatherlessness in America. We’re still in Albany, Georgia, but this time, instead of following the heroics of the Albany Fire Dept.,  we’re on patrol with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Dept. (Interesting that, Albany being a city of 77,000, it doesn’t seem to have its own police force, but I guess they had to trim the cast somewhere.)

The Kendricks have ramped the action up a notch with this one. Right at the beginning, we see Fireproof’s Ken Bevel, now playing Nathan Hayes, stop for gas, only to have his truck stolen by a dew-rag clad gang-banger (T.C. Stallings, a devoted husband and father in real life). He throws himself half-way through the driver’s window, and we are treated to a fist-fight with Nathan hanging out the window at 30 miles an hour. The movie eventually leads up to a climactic scene with guns blazing. In between is more action, more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, and a heart-felt message about how crucial a father is to a child’s development, and how those without fathers often become dew-rag clad truck thieves.

The story follows Deput. Hayes, a recent transfer to the department, three other Deputies, Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick), Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes), and David Thompson (Ben Davies), and Javier Martinez (Robert Amaya), a rarely employed construction worker, and their families. Javier breaks his back to provide for his family and eventually finds employment working on Adam’s house. He then becomes part of the group. David is the rookie of the squad who’s holding in a shameful secret. He has a daughter around three years of age, whom he has never met, and whose support he had not contributed a dime to. (Apparently, the Georgia Division of Child Support Services was vaporized along with the Albany P.D.) Shane struggles to be a dad to his son when he only sees him every other weekend.  Adam dotes on his daughter but refuses to join his son for the father-son 5K. And Nathan and his wife, Kayla (Elenor Brown), struggle to fend off the “saggy-pants boys” interested in their teenage daughter.

A tragedy eventually forces these men to reevaluate what they are doing as fathers. The story dives into Christian kitsch for awhile. Adam comes up with a written resolution and the five families actually hold a ceremony with their pastor in which they dramatically recite it. In a similar vein, we later see Nathan take his daughter to a very expensive restaurant (below), where he, again with great ceremony, presents her with a “promise ring.” Yeah, I know. I chortled at this scene, too, but then I found out my wife had very specific plans for me to do exactly that with our daughter one day.

But for all the kitsch, the film really is trying, and trying to do far more than just entertain. The problems with Courageous mainly serve to highlight the fact that most movies just fill themselves up with explosions and car wrecks and expect you to buy a ticket. Courageous sets the bar much higher, and does come close to clearing it.

There was a time when I would have been unable to enjoy this movie. I can enjoy it now largely because I have a wonderful wife, who makes my life very sweet. That said, there are still some key points of this film I can’t help but take issue with. A lot of the film’s attitude is summed up when Nathan delivers the curmudgeonly line “If fathers just did what they were supposed to, half the junk we see on the street wouldn’t exist.” This seems to be the mantra of conservatives and liberals alike: it’s all men’s fault. But if you look at the history of America over the last 40 years or so, men have not been the only – or even the primary – culprit of the breakdown of the family. History does not tell of a movement of men throwing off their responsibilities to society. We don’t see crowds of men burning their undergarments and demanding the right to kill their children. We do, however, see women doing all these things.

In the U.S. today, more than two thirds of all divorces are initiated by the woman. And why not? The feminist political machine has tilted the legal game board of divorce ridiculously toward the woman’s pockets. (Please note: Every man in Iowa should carefully read chapters 236 and 598 of the Iowa Code before he even thinks about getting emotionally attached to a woman. As for the other states, talk to a lawyer there.) Millions of children in the U.S. grow up without fathers because their mothers want it that way.

My first year out of law school, I worked in a family law firm. I never had a man in my office who didn’t care about his children. Most of my clients were there because they were having to fight just to see their children. The slant in family court is based on more than gender stereotypes.  The judicial community includes many territorial lionesses. A child is power, and they are not about to share it. Conversely, male judges are of the old way of thinking, in which men are expected to take the lumps and bear the weight of the world on our shoulders without complaint. This combination of liberal women and conservative men, not only in court, but also in society, is a frustrating dynamic. While women are exhorted about their rights, men are flagellated with our supposed responsibilities. Lawyers aren’t supposed to get emotionally involved, but I couldn’t help feeling the pain my clients felt. Commanded to be fathers by the right, yet torn from their children by the left; commanded to “be a man,” yet emasculated.

Courageous never addresses any of this, failing to live up to its name. The Kendrick brothers buckle under the pressure of political correctness. Too afraid to take women to task for their desertion, like so many before them, they turn on men.

It’s hard to stay angry at a movie that has this much heart, and is actually trying to make a difference in the world. But while it’s a valiant effort, another Fireproof it is not.  Fireproof met

Actor-director Alex Kendrick takes aim at bad fathers.

people squarely where they were at. There’s no reason 3 billion men couldn’t have connected with Caleb Holt, the fire chief who shows valor in the work place, but doesn’t know how to love his wife. The story eventually shows that, only by first receiving the unconditional love of God can Caleb show unconditional love to the flawed and sinful woman he lives with. It would actually  have been fairly simple for Courageous to do the same thing. Shane Fuller is a character that millions of men would easily connect with, including unbelievers. He is divorced. He wants to be a father to his son, but, as he explains it, he only gets him every other weekend, after his mother has filled his head with her toxic opinions of him. He wants to provide for his son, but almost a third of his paycheck is swallowed by alimony. Shane should have been the lead role of this movie! He could have been the Caleb Holt of Courageous. How can Shane, and other men, be the kind of fathers God wants them to be, despite the obstacles? How can God help them to raise their kids right despite what they have  to deal with? This was a golden opportunity for the Kendricks to win the hearts of their intended audiece. Beating up on men will do nothing to fix the family. Ministering to broken men where they are at will do a lot more.

Sadly, Shane is confined to a small role as the bad cop we’re not supposed to like, and Courageous preaches to the choir. Most of the focus is on Adam, Nathan and Javier, who all have perfect wives, straight out of a Christian fantasy.

Overall, I recommend seeing Courageous. There’s a lot of great moments I didn’t want to spoil here. The fact that I can even disagree with it shows it had more of a brain than most movies. It’s not easy to make a movie that ministers. I still laughed and I was still swept along by the story. It was good to see Christian cinema taking another (mostly) positive step.

Number four at the box office in October of 2011. High-five!

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Director Steven Spielberg and Producer Peter Jackson collaborate for their marvelous adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin.  As a welcome Christmas gift to fans of the classic long-lived European comics as well as the uninitiated, this is the first motion-capture animated film I can fully praise with an abundance of exclamation points.  Spielberg has directed a sprawling action-adventure film for families that springs with life and leaps with wit.

In the 1940s, young reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) purchases a model collector’s ship, the Unicorn, that immediately thrusts him into danger.  The model contains a riddle and secret code, but what does it mean and where does it lead?  Accompanied by his trustworthy pup, Snowy, Tintin must elude several dangerous characters seeking to steal his rare artifact.  This leads the young adventurer to Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a notorious drunk who may be the key to solving the secret of the Unicorn.

With Tintin, the infamous Steven Spielberg finally returns to light up cinemas following a 3-year absence.  Ironically, this film may have more in common with Raiders of the Lost Ark than his last disappointing outing with the famed archeologist. Tintin is full of exciting mystery and grandiose action sequences, brilliant animation, shades of inviting humor, and a gorgeous 3D presentation.  This is easily the best animated film I’ve seen all year, and contains one of the year’s most entertaining action sequences, live-action or animation.

As for the motion-capture technique, Spielberg and Jackson know what they’re doing here.  I’ve found the work done by Robert Zemeckis (who’s recently been obsessed with the technology) over the last seven years to be a total snooze.  The Polar Express, Beowulf, and Christmas Carol never got it quite right despite painstaking efforts to be sure.  Tintin, however, is a visual marvel.  The animation is spot-on, and the performances behind the characters onscreen, chief among them Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, and Andy Serkis, are uniformly excellent.

The film ends with the setup for another adventure, and I hope American audiences seek out The Adventures of Tintin, as it is not a well-known property here.  Forget about needing to know anything.  Walk in blind and let the film dazzle you from beginning to end.

 

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The Muppets

Make way for the return of The Muppets, Disney’s attempt at reviving the wacky Jim Henson puppets that have laid dormant for many years.  The writers know it too as star Jason Segel helped pen this pet-project of his.  His infatuation with the clan is a little more than hinted at in the recent Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

The story focuses on Segel’s character’s brother, Walter, a puppet and die-hard fan of the Muppets which were hugely popular in the 1970s.  Now in 2011, the Muppets have disappeared and scattered across the states finding cheap venues to perform in.  When Walter tours the run-down Muppet studio, he discovers the maniacal plot of a wealthy investor (Chris Cooper) to turn the studio into rubble and drill for oil on the property.  Walter seeks out Kermit the Frog to regroup the old band once again and put a show together within a matter of days to save their contract by raising $10 million before they lose all rights to their studio.

Much of the film builds up to the clan reuniting, showcasing a slew of celebrity cameo appearances. Witty zingers bounce off the walls.  Outrageous musical numbers abound—chief among them Chris Cooper’s rapping and the chicken-ized version of Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You.’  This is all good fun.

However, I wanted The Muppets to return loud and proud, and despite an admirable effort on the part of everyone involved, I can’t shake a slight feeling of being… underwhelmed. However, I enjoyed the film more often than not. It’s witty and clever in most of the right places. The film simply lead me on the entire time, as though it hinted that something big and amazing was about to happen, but never actually surfaced. Still, this is good fun for what it is and a welcome return for the Muppets.

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Tower Heist

An alleged comedy, Tower Heist is generic from its title on down.  Look at the talent on display and tell me Director Brett Ratner has any excuse for this.  Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe.  What happened?

Ben Stiller plays Josh, the GM of the most luxurious condo tower in New York.  His most pricey client, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), has been convicted of all kinds of money-dealing wrongs.  This guy has so much dough, the floor of his rooftop pool features a 100-dollar bill design.  He owns a 1953 ferrari once driven by Steve McQueen—and the car was disassembled and then reassembled in Shaw’s living room.

Josh mistakenly offered the handling of company pensions to Shaw, only to find out that all of it was lost to Shaw’s scheming.  An FBI agent (Tea Leoni) having pity on Josh and his situation, informs him that $20 million or so of Shaw’s cash has yet to be found.  Josh believes he knows exactly where it is.  In an attempt to redeem himself and get his people’s money back, Josh assembles a group of dopes, including Affleck, Broderick, Pena, and Murphy to break into Shaw’s penthouse and rob a safe built within one of the condo walls.

Ratner has all the production values required for a major heist picture like this, but in his attempt to combine Rush Hour and Ocean’s Eleven, he fails in deliver a weak script without any wiggle room for his comedic stars to shine.  Eddie Murphy is vastly underused.  Audiences will eat up his scenery chewing harkening back to his glory days from the 80s.  Murphy really hasn’t been this funny in quite some time, but he enters the movie late in the game and gets very little to do.  Stiller plays the straight guy.  He has nothing to do here other than play an unlikely hero and leader of the pack, acting as the only character with enough smarts to pull off a heist of such caliber.  Broderick, Affleck, and Pena play the fillers: bumbling, dopey, and intended for laughs.  I never found them interesting or believable enough to laugh at.

Luckily, Ratner wraps the film up in 90 minutes.  I could view this as a perfectly acceptable time-killer, but it deserves to be hilarious and fun.  Tower Heist has moments of what could have been.  Murphy jibing Stiller about his asthma attacks in elementary school.  The guys trying to prove themselves worthy to thief-expert Murphy by robbing $50 of goods apiece from a shopping mall.  A classic ferrari dangling from the top of a skyscraper as a trio of guys hang from the car.  These moments definitely help make the film come alive occasionally, but for the most part, nothing else here elevates Tower Heist from being little more than a Saturday afternoon watch on cable.

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