This movie garnered middling reviews at the time of its release in 2011, despite sporting a stellar cast of Ben Stiller, Alan Alda, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck, which to me seems like comedy gold. The idea of Zoolander, Axel Foley, and Ferris Bueller hanging out had me excited and I guess that’s where some of the problems with the film occur.
It doesn’t really know what it is supposed to be, is it an Ocean’s 11-esque smart action/heist movie with everyone looking beautiful, spouting witty banter? Is it a drama and a social commentary on how financial fraud ruins people’s lives when they lose their pensions whilst the billionaire hedge fund managers walk free? Or is it a screwball feelgood comedy like Night at the Museum? In many ways it is all these things and I can see that’s why maybe people didn’t flock to the theatre’s to see it.
It is also a colossal waste of Broderick and Murphy’s talent. They have supporting roles and Murphy in movies continues to be a conundrum. He isn’t really given much to do here, he is just re-hashing his wise-ass persona from the 80’s, at one point even cracking out Axel Foley’s trademark laugh. At one stage he impersonates someone from the bank and you get a glimmer of him considering turning off the auto-pilot but the rest feels like he might be phoning it in. And for every DreamGirls there is this, or worse (not mentioning any names Pluto Nash). I am a big fan of Murphy and even liked his Disney stuff, Nutty Professor and Doctor Doolittle, but I long for a proper performance from him again, a scene stealing comic force, like Beverley Hills Cop or Coming to America (of which there is talk of a sequel).
What the film definitely is though is a well acted, at times very funny and poignant comedy. It is solid entertainment and I enjoyed it greatly, it felt like spending time with a familiar friend with Stiller, as always, good value. At times I struggled with his performance because he plays it super straight and I am not sure whether I bought his conversion from respected hotel manager to super criminal/Robin Hood.
The pace was fairly good but again it suffers an identity crisis in that it doesn’t really know what to be, with lots of different story lines picked up and then dropped in favour of a daring and often enjoyable action set piece. I particularly enjoyed them trying to lower Steve McQueen’s Ferrari from the penthouse suite into a room on a lower floor. Maybe it’s because I am scared of heights but I found it genuinely intense and I think that is thanks to the earnestness and class of all the actors.
Tea Leoni plays a really under written character in the form of an FBI agent Claire Denham that may or may not have the hots for Stiller. Again this is an undeveloped idea and a waste of Leoni’s skills as an actor. The ending also left me a little bit flat.
It has a great ensemble cast, including Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe and the brilliant Stephen Henderson (who gives us some moments of real drama and his experiences of stage acting shine through, with a performance of world weary dignity) and at times you can see an excellent film trying to break free from the confused mix of tones. Originally the plan for the film was for it to be a star vehicle for Murphy starring an all-black cast and I would have liked to have seen that movie. Apparently he left the production when the script changed and later returned to the project by which time the film was something going in a different direction.
But if you are free on a Saturday night, grab a beer, cosy up on the Sofa and enjoy an amusing hour and forty five minutes.
It is an entertaining feel good movie.
You can check out more movie reviews by following the link below. Thanks for reading.