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It has often been asked whether movies reflect culture or shape it. I’d contend the answer is both, in a sort of lopsided dance that pushes society’s values farther and further down the floor.

Picture the dance this way: First, the culture produces artists who are products of their times and popular values (culture leading the dance), then the waltz swings round as those artists take the society’s worldview to its next logical step and pull the culture’s morays even further forward (artists, and hence movies, leading the dance). Then the process repeats itself, round and round, each dancer taking their turn pulling the other along in a circular sort of leapfrog motion that spins wildly, if lopsidedly, down the floor.

If you imagine a small man trying to swing an Olympic hammer that’s too heavy for him, you might see how first one pulls the other forward, then the opposite takes the lead, but until that man lets go of the hammer, it’s going to be a wild, spinning ride.

In real life, you can see this with Barack Obama, class warfare and the Occupy Wall Street movement:

First, Obama preached to America a loud message of anti-rich, class warfare sentiment (leading the dance), then the Occupiers arose and shouted about the wealthy 1 percent vs. the remaining 99, requiring the president, in turn, to respond to this mass uprising (the Occupiers leading the dance). And so the circle goes, ever lurching forward.

So perhaps it’s little surprise that Hollywood is both reflecting and leading this lurching resentment toward the rich, as evidenced by the last week’s heavy handed “In Time,” or this week’s theater release, a much lighter fare called “Tower Heist.”

 

For the most part, “Tower Heist” is a harmless – if a bit obscene – Hollywood comedy starring Ben Stiller, Alan Alda and Eddie Murphy.

Murphy makes a sort of return in this film, reprising his popular ’80s persona as a fast-talking, foul-mouthed comedian who – if the obscenities don’t turn you off – can be side-splittingly funny.

The film follows Stiller as Josh Kovacs (no relation to WND Executive News Editor Joe Kovacs, though one could draw similarities between the two), a bright and resourceful manager of New York City’s most prestigious residential highrise, The Tower.

In the penthouse suite lives Arthur Shaw (played by Alda), a investing magnate who pulls a Bernie Madoff-style fraud on his investors that wipes out all of their savings, including the retirement funds of the entire staff of The Tower.

Kovacs, blaming himself for trusting Shaw with the staff’s pension money, then works with a cast of disgruntled Tower employees – and “experienced” thief and street thug Slide, played by Murphy – to steal from Shaw the $20 million that he has reportedly hid in his penthouse suite.

The resulting mayhem is part “Oceans 11″ and part throwback ’80s comedy, complete with Matthew Broderick and a classic, red Ferrari.

The film is suprisingly funny – even though too much of it is juvenile, sex-strewn and unnecessarily obscene – and fairly well made, with a few surprises and some clever ideas thrown into an entertaining, popcorn muncher of a movie.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers couldn’t help but spend some time “dancing” in class warfare, not content to merely make the bad guy a Madoff, but putting some scathing lines and scenes in that only perpetuate the idea that the wealthy are evil, and the masses – the 99 percent – are their victims.

One line talks about the Tower staff, suggesting they are “peasants [who] take everything from the feudal lords.”

In another scene, the evil rich man scoffs at his staff, saying, “You people are just clock punchers, easily replaced.”

Though why Shaw commissions a massive potrait of Mao Zedong in his penthouse is strangely odd.

While not as heavy as it could have been, the class warfare in the movie is enough to reinforce loathing for the rich and the notion that it’s noble to steal from them. In the end, the real “heist” is not just $20 million, but a subtle swiping of the hearts and minds of Americans away from the Founding Fathers’ ideals of freedom and opportunity, a crime that would send the young, impressionable and undiscerning one more dance step down the floor toward Bolshevism.

Content advisory:

  • “Tower Heist” contains roughly 80 profanities and obscenities, most used casually and for comedic effect.

 

  • Though the movie has no romantic storyline, no sex scene and no nudity (save for an abstract piece of art and a Victoria’s Secret model in lingerie), many of the jokes are lewd and laced with innuendo. Much of the humor is sex-related, sometimes juvenile, sometimes outright bawdry. There is also a scene that discusses and makes light of lesbianism.

 

  • The film’s violence consists of a pair of fairly tame car chases, the smashing of a car with a golf club, some drawn guns and one character knocked unconscious. There are no killings, significant fights or bloodshed.

 

  • The movie’s religious and occult content is limited to one character who crosses herself before cracking a safe and shouts “Hallelujah” at a stroke of good fortune.

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