Journalists use the phrase “burying the lead,” which refers to hiding the primary aspects of a story.
“Tower Heist,” now playing, is guilty of burying the lead.
First, the movie has the word “heist” in it. That means it is trying to tell the story of a robbery of some type.
Heist movies are also known for their twists and turns, with elements that make you think, “Wow! I did not know that was going to happen!”
Unfortunately, any twist that “Tower Heist” had is telegraphed by its story and marketing. When the movie begins, you know exactly what is going to happen. There’s no real surprise here.
Second, the star of the movie really isn’t Ben Stiller, but Eddie Murphy. When Murphy is on the screen, he’s electric – as in a scene featuring his character, Slide, and Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) opening a safe.
But Murphy doesn’t show up until halfway through the movie. He only appears after Stiller’s character, Josh, brings him on to help rob Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda).
Shaw is a Bernie Madoff-ish investment banker who is arrested for fraud. Josh is the manager of the building where Shaw lives, and Josh gave all the retirement funds of his employees to Shaw to invest.
Of course, Josh learns that Shaw has taken their money.
The heist of the title refers to Josh and some employees breaking into Shaw’s apartment to steal $20 million, which is believed to be hidden in the apartment.
The movie begins by giving us all manner of introduction of characters that walk through the lobby of the building. This is standard operational procedure for this kind of movie. But there’s a problem here: We don’t see many of them later in the story.
This movie is ultimately weighed down by all the stuff needed for a heist movie, and it doesn’t have the dramatic or comedic momentum to push it forward.
But the movie does have one thing going for it: timeliness.
This movie definitely speaks to our time: the Occupy Wall Street movement, the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer. “Tower Heist” tries to speak to that frustration simmering beneath our nation’s surface.
But the message is so muddled by the direction and story execution that it doesn’t come through.
I think “Tower Heist” is somewhat like its title. It tries to reach high up, but misses the mark.
It’s just another in a long line of movies that will be in theaters for a while, then on the video shelf, then on television, then gone.
What it needs to say will be lost because it buried the lead.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content.
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson
Cast: Ben Stiller: Josh Kovacs; Eddie Murphy: Slide; Casey Affleck: Charlie; Arthur Shaw: Alan Alda; Matthew Broderick: Mr. Fitzhugh; Gabourey Sidibe: Odessa.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.