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Archive for the ‘Ben Stiller’ Category

Tower Heist

09 Nov

Tower Heist — Directed by Brett Ratner. Heist Comedy. The employees of a fancy apartment high-rise plan to rob the Ponzi schemer who has robbed them. 109 minutes Color 2011.

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Ben Stiller, a wonderful actor, is of the Buster Keaton School Of Comedy. His face remains still but what goes on behind it is alive, true, and funny. He does not need to put on the funny nose of physical comedy to make his comic point, and because of this inherent humor in him, which combines with a kind of modesty, one wants to be in his company often – even when he hands the focus over to the comedy of others. Once again we have him as the driving force behind a group of disparate males. Casey Affleck, he of the irritating voice, is at least perfectly cast as the unwilling go-along on this caper. Gabourey Sidibe is irresistible as the maid who can crack any safe in Christendom within fifteen minutes of fingering it. Alan Ada brings his terrifying affability to the part of the Madoff monster. Michael Pena plays the recent hireling to the building with remarkable address and presence. Stephen Henderson gives us a Santa Claus doorman whose stocking has been pilfered and whose dismay is the axel that turns the story around. Téa Leoni is perfectly cast as the FBI agent who slips the info to Stiller that saves the day. Matthew Broderick plays the dowdy accountant who can whiz-bang sums and whose fear of heights will make everyone want to leave their seats and head for terra firma. And finally we are given Eddie Murphy who sashays in as the ringer to coach the others into the deed of theft. Eddie Murphy’s chimpanzee smile is sudden, surprising, and sapient. As the low life hood who has never stolen anything over $1000 because to do so would be to commit a felony and now must prevail to steal 45 million, Murphy nails the entire structure of the role. He is a modern miracle as an actor. There seems to be no part of him that is not engaged in a given performance, and nothing seems difficult or unreal for him. Granted, he has taken over the low comedy slot vacated by Martin and Lewis, but so what? He brings true hauteur to a role, true authority, a kind of internal grandeur that is quite hilarious. When you find someone who has a genius for a thing, it is worth seeing him enact it. His eyes alone are worth the price of admission. The movie is closer to a cartoon of a heist movie than to a heist movie, so do not expect Rififi. Tower Heist spends time without wasting it.

 

 

 

The Little Fockers

11 Jan

The Little Fockers – directed by Paul Weitz – low comedy in which an Irish don hands over his mission in life to his Jewish son-in-law.   120 minutes color 2010.

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This is Abey’s Irish Rose as a movie. That most long running and now long forgotten of all plays and radio shows was about the Jewish boy who married a Colleen. Same here. In those days, back in the 30s and 40s, the conflict was based on immigrant wars, the Kikes against the Micks, the stubbornness of the territorial and cultural and religious protectorates of the tribes who had just or almost just come here – and intermarried. West Side Story is musical version of it. But here we have as befits the theme a series. This is the third, and there is nothing wrong with it at all. You have a fine cast. Barbra Streisand plays her usual self-pushing self. Laura Dern does the chilling principal of a fancy modern school. Owen Wilson is the clueless sybarite best friend. Dustin Hoffman is the fool Jewish father. Harvey Keitel is a the bellicose earth-mover. Blythe Danner is the elegant mother of the Irish don. What brings the movie down is that Robert de Niro is no more an Irish don than a plate of spaghetti is. He takes off the shelf his generic technique and mugs and moues throughout the piece. And there is some cause, it is true, for we are looking at low comedy here. But it is Ben Stiller who carries the piece. What a marvelous player of comedy he is. Has anyone noticed that yet? How subtle he is? How intricate in his response? How real? Check out the moment when he accepts the honor from de Niro; he has taken on the hero’s fullness; he simply asks his son to eat his food; the child vomits on him. But the vomit is not what’s funny. What’s funny is Stiller’s barely discernible inflation. The piece ends in a branagan at a child’s birthday party, a fight which is unconvincing, since no one seems to notice it, but that is the fault of the crudeness of the script, a script which is sometimes quite witty. I enjoyed myself. But then, in asking for so much, I accept so little.

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