A long, long time ago, before Dr. Dolittle and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Eddie Murphy was beloved for his risky, "street-smart, fast-talking comedy" in films like Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and 48 Hrs. (1982). In recent years, however, Murphy has been better known for voicing Shrek's donkey and inflicting Norbit on the world (the latter supposedly cost him an Oscar for Dreamgirls). But now, Murphy's star is once again on the rise. He's hosting the Oscars next year, and this weekend he stars in the comedic caper Tower Heist, in which he and a ragtag band of would-be criminals plan to rob the high-rise residence of an unscrupulous Ponzi schemer. Is Murphy really mounting a comeback?
Quite possibly: "It's hard to remember that Eddie Murphy was once a dangerous talent — flashy, charismatic, hyperverbal, and surprisingly volatile," says Scott Tobias at NPR. Thankfully, Tower Heist "resurrects" the Murphy of 48 Hrs. — an actor who delivered a "breakthrough performance as a small-time hustler." Sure, when Murphy isn't onscreen, Tower Heist is a lame "Ocean's Eleven clone." But it's "a pleasure to see the Eddie Murphy of Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop again."
"At center of Heist, a scene-stealing old favorite"
He does still have moments of greatness: There are glimpses in Tower Heist of the lively, "volatile performer" that Murphy once was, says A.O. Scott in The New York Times. It's just too bad Murphy is playing a "blatantly stereotypical role" — the black guy who teaches white guys how to commit a crime — and that he doesn't have better co-stars to play off of. "Mr. Murphy’s blend of exuberance and hostility is just what Tower Heist needs," but it's not enough to save a sloppily crafted film.
"Crime doesn't pay. Oh, wait."
Murphy really needs a new identity: Reviving this "'80s cop-buddy comedy" persona just doesn't work for Murphy, says Scott Bowles at USA Today. His "crow's-feet are showing," and the "good-cop/good-criminal" thing that was such a "revelation" between Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. has become a tired repetition. Enough is enough.
"Tower Heist is timely but can't quite pull it off"