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'Tower Heist': A clue to this year's Oscars?

August 5, 2011 | 10:15 am


Brett Ratner came to mainstream prominence with the "Rush Hour" franchise, then got under fanboys' skin with the 2006 superhero sequel "X: Men: The Last Stand." But what kind of director is Ratner these days?

It's a more pressing question now than it was just 24 hours ago, what with Ratner being named as one of the two men who will produce this year's Oscars. And it's a question to which this recently released trailer for the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy comedy "Tower Heist" — which comes out Nov. 4, just about a month before the critics groups begin naming their favorites — might provide an answer.

The trailer begins as a kind of class yuk-fest, morphs into a seemingly serious-minded thriller and then settles into the sort of interracial buddy comedy that made Ratner famous. Despite the pedigree of the cast, there aren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments — Murphy just can't get over how Stiller once was a nerdy white kid — but one does get a sense of the Ratner oeuvre while watching it, if only because parts of it so obviously recall "Rush Hour."

And there's at least some solace to take in this: No matter what goes down during this year's award season, when the Oscars get underway there will at least be one movie that Ratner can poke fun at. Maybe.


Brett Ratner: Oscar fan who recognizes his outsider status

Rush Hour director Brett Ratner to producer the Oscars (really)

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from "Tower Heist." Credit: David Lee / Universal Pictures.