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Eddie Murphy in 'Tower Heist': What the Critics Are Saying

Tower Heist Film Still - H 2011
Universal Studios
Eddie Murphy, left, and Ben Stiller in "Tower Heist"

"This is the rude, confrontational, wiseass Murphy audiences have nearly forgotten after all the silly kid comedies and heavy-makeup outings of recent years," writes THR's Todd McCarthy.

Eddie Murphy makes his return to action-comedy in Brett Ratner's new film, Tower Heist, a comic caper about co-workers who turn the tables on a Bernie Madoff type that also stars Ben Stiller.

The movie, which opens Friday, is Murphy's first film in the genre since 2002's Showtime.

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After making a name for himself as a castmember on Saturday Night Live in the early '80s, Murphy went on to star in such action-comedies as Beverly Hills Cop and its two sequels as well as 48 Hrs. and its sequel.

But in recent years, he's veered more toward family films like Daddy Day Care and the Shrek movies and even co-starred in the 2006 musical Dreamgirls, which earned him an Oscar nomination.

The movie itself has been getting mixed reviews, but what do the critics have to say about Murphy's return to the genre where he got his start?

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The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy wrote that Tower Heist marks a return to form for the actor-comedian.

"With Murphy’s full entrance at the 40-minute mark, the film’s energy and amusement level kick up a few notches, at least for a while," he wrote. "This is the rude, confrontational, wiseass Murphy audiences have nearly forgotten after all the silly kid comedies and heavy-makeup outings of recent years."

Many other critics agree with McCarthy, praising Murphy's performance as the best part of the movie. Among them is Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times, who laments that Murphy didn't get more screen time.

"Tower Heist reminds you of the raw comic brilliance Murphy brought to Saturday Night Live all those years ago," she wrote. "With the exception of his hee-hee-haw Donkey in Shrek, Murphy hasn't been this funny since Beverly Hills Cop, the first edition. You come away wishing he had more screen time (especially since the movie, albeit in a very different form, was apparently his idea in the first place)."

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The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips echoed that sentiment.

"I wouldn't say that producer and co-star Murphy is slumming here, exactly, but it is too bad the superstar who ruled the world with such savvy commercial entertainments as the first Beverly Hills Cop and the first 48 Hrs. doesn't get a little more elbow room," he wrote.

Amy Biancolli wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Rare is the movie that doesn't light up when Murphy cracks his face into a squinty-eyed grin. He doesn't have much screen time in Tower Heist -- just enough to steal it."

Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe wrote that Murphy gives the movie "scene after scene of jive gusto."

Tower Heist is smoothly made and smart enough," he added. "It’s not going for too much, but I laughed a lot, despite knowing better, which was more or less any time Eddie Murphy says anything to Ben Stiller."

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Other praise for Murphy came from the Associated Press' Christy Lemire, who wrote that "when Murphy’s on screen in his classic comic mode, it’s hard to focus on anyone or anything else."

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Sun's Katherine Monk opined that Murphy "lights up the screen with his Molotov energy," while the Salt Lake Tribune's Sean P. Mean calls Murphy the movie's "not-so-secret weapon, who employs the unmistakable comic swagger that has been missing, and greatly missed, since the days of Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop."

Murphy is next set to host the Oscars on Feb. 26, and the critical praise for his Tower Heist performance could boost expectations for the telecast, which is being produced by Ratner and Don Mischer. When the news was first announced in September, it was met with mixed reactions from fans around the Internet, many of whom expressed hope for the "1980s Murphy" for the awards show.