Reel Reviews

‘Tower Heist’

Audience:
L – limited adult audience, problematic content

 

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Eddie Murphy-style crude language mars comedy

Workers at a luxury Manhattan apartment building plan to rob a felonious financier in the action-comedy “Tower Heist” (Universal).

What could have been a crowd-pleasing caper is marred by a steady stream of crude language. Though it features some amusing moments courtesy of a talented ensemble, the topical romp is also short-circuited by manic energy that comes across as more slapdash than extemporaneously madcap.

Alan Alda plays Arthur Shaw, a Bernie Madoff-like money manager living in the opulent penthouse of “The Tower,” which occupies prime New York City real estate across from Central Park. After Shaw is arrested by the FBI for securities fraud, Tower employees learn he looted their pension fund. Building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) feels responsible since he asked Shaw to invest the staff's money. Shaw’s patronizing attitude toward him exacerbates Josh’s thirst for payback.

Recruiting Slide (Eddie Murphy), a petty criminal from his Queens neighborhood, Josh hatches a scheme to steal Shaw’s hidden $20 million stash. Together with concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), elevator operator Dev’Reaux (Michael Pena), and bankrupt preppy Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), they put their risky plan into action during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Relying on stereotypical ethnic humor, and using expletives to express most every emotion, screenwriters don’t score high marks for imagination. Their main attempt at being clever involves a famous chess move, which they incorporate in a manner that serves to telegraph the plot.

For his part, director Brett Ratner stages scenes with little regard for logical continuity and flow. Loud and fast are his default settings.

Parents should be warned about letting even older teens see this unfunny comedy. Inappropriate expressions, combined with some fairly explicit sexual talk, render the movie morally dubious, regardless of the fact it’s being offered in the spirit of “harmless fun.” You can enjoy your Thanksgiving another way!

The film contains some profanity, frequent crude and crass language, much sexual banter and innuendo, a suicide attempt and a scene glamorizing alcohol abuse. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

(By Patrick McCarthy, Catholic News Service)

‘In Time’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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Fairy tale plotlines become entwined in this fun animation

The dystopia sketched out in the sci-fi thriller “In Time” (Fox) is intriguing and, theoretically at least, more than a little chilling. In the near future, each member of society has been genetically engineered to stop aging upon reaching 25, after which the person will live for only one more year unless he can add more time to the biological clock.

With seconds, minutes, hours and days serving as currency, the wealthy can live forever while the less privileged must hustle to acquire time by any means necessary. An LED display on each person’s forearm reveals how much time remains before they expire. Units of chronology are uploaded and downloaded via scanners and can be transferred between individuals when they clasp arms in a particular way.

The population is segregated into “time zones” according to how much time citizens have left. Mobility between the zones is severely restricted, and the cost of living is kept artificially high. This economic system pits elites against the majority, and, though the rich also fear accidental death, everyone must be vigilant to avoid being robbed of their most precious resource.

It's a scenario ripe for exploitation in every sense, and yet a good premise does not a good movie make. More stylish than substantive, “In Time” suffers from artificial execution and a pun-heavy script. Feeding on contemporary dissatisfaction with the world economic system, it offers a morally praiseworthy response to the challenges it imagines – but can’t shake an absurdly glossy, unreal air.

Justin Timberlake plays hero Will Salas, a factory worker in a ghetto sector called Dayton, located east of downtown Los Angeles, where the have-nots scrounge for minutes to stay alive. After protecting a wealthy stranger from thugs, Will receives a gift of time and, suddenly flush, makes his way into the precinct of New Greenwich where he encounters mogul Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) and his daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).

Suspected of murder and guilty of disrupting the economic balance, Will is pursued by the de facto police in the person of a “Timekeeper” named Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy). Eluding capture by kidnapping Sylvia, Will returns to Dayton and the fugitive pair launches a crime spree aimed at redistributing wealth.

“In Time” has its heart in the right place, that is, on the side of those seemingly unable to change a system that takes advantage of them (in contemporary parlance, on the side of the 99 percent). It should be lauded for championing an altruistic hero who puts the notion of charity and philanthropy into action, albeit with a Robin Hood twist.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to shake the idea that “In Time” is just an excuse for Hollywood to make a film in which no one over the age of 30 need be cast.

The film contains non-graphic action violence, including gunplay, a suicide, a glimpse of rear female nudity, several non-marital sexual situations, at least one instance each of profanity and rough language, several crude terms and some innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

(by John P. McCarthy, Catholic News Service)