For the better part of the past decade, Eddie Murphy has abandoned his Raw roots and become Mr. Silly Family Movie with a splash of Donkey.

…so much so that when he appears in Tower Heist spouting profanity and dressed like a thug, it’s actually a little jarring. Fun and entertaining, sure. But a little jarring.

But as jarring as it is, it’s even more welcome–– a return to the Eddie we used to know; too bad he doesn’t show up until almost half-way through the movie.

Ben Stiller takes the lead here as Josh Kovacs, building manager at a super-posh Central Park-adjacent condo tower. Its richest tenant is Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a Bernie Madoff-esque Wall Street tycoon who torpedoes the entire staff’s pensions. It’s Josh, though, who feels the pangs of guilt, since it was his idea to let Shaw handle the staff accounts in the first place.

When an FBI agent (Téa Leoni) mentions in passing that Shaw probably has a secret stash of cash hidden in his condo, Josh gets the idea to attempt an big-time heist. And with the help of some of the staff (Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, and Gabourey Sidibe) and one former tenant (Matthew Broderick), he begins putting the plan in motion, only to realize they’re all a little out of their league.

And so begins the resurrection of Eddie Murphy. As Slide, a Queens neighbor and former childhood friend of Josh, Murphy plays a small-time crook with the street smarts to get the job done.

If they gave a Comeback of the Year award, Murphy would no doubt be on the short list. His rapid-fire spatter and thug-life attitude save Tower Heist from becoming a poor man’s Ocean’s Eleven.

Director Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour trilogy) has shown he knows how to mix action and comedy, and he does it again here. Though Tower Heist isn’t an unqualified home run (it gets a little sloppy, takes about a half-hour too long to get going, and ignores most of the elementary laws of physics in the third act), it’s plenty of fun with more than a handful of legitimate laugh-out-loud moments. Most of those moments come courtesy of Murphy, but Broderick and Pena get in a few, too. And Stiller, playing his usual everyman character, anchors the party well.

Tower Heist is undeniably timely in these days of Occupy Wall Street, but it’s also worth your time–– a witty, smart, David vs. Goliath tale of revenge which also happens to mark the return of one of the country’s brightest comedy minds.

Welcome back, Eddie.

3.5/5 stars