Tower Heist

Cast:
Ben Stiller as Josh Kovacs
Eddie Murphy as Slide
Casey Affleck as Charlie
Alan Alda as Arthur Shaw
Matthew Broderick as Mr. Fitzhugh
Stephen Henderson as Lester
Judd Hirsch as Mr. Simon
Téa Leoni as Special Agent Claire Denham
Michael Peña as Enrique Dev’Reaux
Gabourey Sidibe as Odessa
Nina Arianda as Miss Iovenko
Marcia Jean Kurtz as Rose
Juan Carlos Hernández as Manuel
Harry O’Reilly as Special Agent Danszk
Peter Van Wagner as Marty Klein, Esq.

Directed by Brett Ratner

Story:
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) has been the manager of a luxury high-rise condo in New York City for years, but when he learns the building’s penthouse resident, financial mogul Art Shaw (Alan Alda), has been put under house arrest for embezzling billions of dollars from investors, he realizes that includes his co-workers’ pensions which were invested through Shaw. Unhappy about the situation, Josh and his coworkers plan an elaborate robbery of Shaw’s condo where he’s reportedly hidden $20 million. To help them commit the crime, Josh bails out a local thug named Slide (Eddie Murphy) who has plans of his own for getting the money.

Analysis:
There’s just as much to be excited about with “Tower Heist,” which marks the return of both Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy, as there is to be terrified of, because let’s face it, both director and actor have been responsible for some absolutely awful drek on their own, so together? God only knows what to expect. Fortunately, they have Ben Stiller and producer Brian Grazer to keep things in line, and one should never forget that Ratner was responsible for at least two strong action-comedies in the “Rush Hour” series.

At a luxury Columbus Circle high-rise simply called “The Tower,” it’s all about service and giving the tenants everything they need when they need it, and it’s a tightly run ship by the general manager Josh (Ben Stiller) who’ll do anything for the tenants, even Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) who has been hit by hard times and has been squatting in the condo. When Josh learns that one of the building’s wealthiest residents has been caught embezzling millions, including his investment of his coworkers’ pension, Josh feels betrayed so he retaliates and gets himself fired, but the FBI agent on the case (Tea Leoni) reveals that the man under investigation may have millions hidden in his penthouse condo, so Josh gathers a group of disgruntled workers to rob the place.

Basically, it’s the same concept of “Ocean’s 11″ only moved to a high-rise building in Manhattan, though the idea of hardworking people getting revenge on those responsible for taking their money is considerably timely with the recent economic collapse and the current protests on Wall Street. “Tower Heist” makes for a good escapist release for those who feel like getting back at those who have made our lives miserable. What may be surprising is how seriously the film handles the ides of loving everything, making for a sharp contrast for the jokier portions of the movie. It’s not quite on par with “Horrible Bosses” in terms of setting up a hair-brained plan that goes wrong and making the most out of the laughs that come from it. Overall, the movie is a bit uneven, but when it works, it works well.

There’s little question that Eddie Murphy is the best part of the movie, really turning up the laugh factor whenever he’s on screen, but the truth is he’s barely in the first half hour of the movie, only making a couple of small appearances, then after dominating the second act, his character doesn’t get a satisfactory resolution and is seemingly forgotten. That means most of the movie relies on Stiller, Affleck, Broderick and Peña to carry the movie, and it’s truly the definition of an ensemble piece where everyone gets some great moments and gags.

Always likeable when playing a normal Joe, Stiller often ends up playing the straight man to others, particularly Murphy. Michael Peña gets some of the best lines and jokes to adequately fill in when Murphy isn’t around, while Broderick even gets involved in some fun Harold Lloyd physical humor. As hard as he tries to be a despicable bad guy, Alan Alda is so an immensely likeable actor, it’s hard to truly loathe him, especially when he’s going head-to-head with Stiller. The movie is very much a boys’ club, but Tea Leoni is well cast as the FBI agent that offers a bit of a romantic interest for Stiller’s character, while Gabourey Sidibe is the weak link of the movie, her bad Jamaican accent quickly getting tiring even she does have one funny scene with Murphy, one that’s already been overused in commercials. But Sidibe really is the only one bad apple in a solid cast that even includes the welcome return of “Taxi” star Judd Hirsch to play Stiller’s boss.

Brett Ratner has already proven his mettle for combining action and comedy, and he does a great job getting the best out of this cast as well as insuring the setting remains a pivotal part of the movie working. In that sense, he does an impressive job capturing New York City’s busiest areas during the craziness of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and making sure the film’s New York charm is always front and center.

The Bottom Line:
“Tower Heist” isn’t the funniest comedy you’re likely to see this year, nor is it exactly rocket science in terms of storytelling, but there are enough funny, clever and downright entertaining moments to make it a nice bit of escapist fun.

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