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November 5, 2011 | 10:02 a.m. CST
The edge can be a dangerous place. One false step and you plummet, but hold back and you might miss out on the best view.
Skillfully navigating the edge, toeing it in ways other comedians never dared, made Eddie Murphy a star in the '80s. For the past decade, though, he’s contented himself with more family-friendly roles, leaving fans wondering where the old Eddie went.Related Movie
Wonder no more. He’s back.
In Tower Heist Murphy returns to his street-smart, wisecracking roots to play Slide, a small-time crook who gets wrapped up in a big-time job. Recruited by Josh Kovacs (an uninspired Ben Stiller) to provide criminal cachet to their ill-equipped robbery plot, Slide is as close to classic Murphy as we’ve seen in over a decade.
Unfortunately, we don’t see quite enough of it. Tower Heist starts slow and never quite reaches the peak that could have been. Positioned perfectly to provide a contemporary Robin Hood figure in the midst of the occupy movement, the film fails to take aim at what should have been easy targets. Rather than lampoon the one-percenters or the absurdities of the current economic climate, Tower Heist instead keeps the kid gloves on in attacking a solitary Madoff-like figure, a plight fewer viewers will connect with on a personal level.
Nearly 30 years ago in Trading Places, Murphy proved that the wealthy can provide a rich source of comedic material, and this film still reigns as one of his best. And in Tower Heist he proves he still has his trademark comedic edginess in him. But even Murphy at his best couldn’t compensate for all of this film’s flaws. It’s worth seeing to catch a glimpse of what might be the rebirth of a comedic legend. Just don’t expect a classic.