Tower Heist is genuinely funny and at times even clever. It won’t stick with you, but it’s nice to see Stiller and Eddie Murphy have some chemistry from whence comedy can spring. Add a very good Matthew Broderick to the mix, and Tower Heist pretty much pulls its caper off successfully.
A preview for your viewing pleasure:
Released November 4, 2011
Written by Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, and Michael Pena.
* * * *
In Tower Heist, Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, the manager of a high rise of very nice apartments with a very swanky penthouse at the top. At the top lives Bernie Madoff, or rather Arthur Shaw, played by Alan Alda. Josh is superb at his job and has formed sort of friendship with Mr. Shaw in that Josh knows what Shaw needs at all times and the two of them play online chess together.
Josh is devoted to Mr. Shaw, as well as the employees of the building. One of the employees is the concierge, Charlie, who is played by Casey Affleck. Charlie is also Josh’s brother-in-law. Charlie married Josh’s sister.
It comes out that Shaw has swindled the employees of the Tower, in a very swindling and mercenary fashion. Josh takes it very hard and ends up hating Shaw. He decides he needs to take matters into his own hands when he is told by the FBI agents, led by Tea Leoni, that Shaw probably has upwards of $20 million in cash stashed somewhere in the apartment.
Josh is pretty sure he knows where the money is. He gets a few of the employees of the building, along with Mr. Fitzhugh, played by Matthew Broderick, to help him pull of a heist of that money. He also convinces Slide, played by Eddie Murphy, to be the criminal brains of the plan. The heist goes over fine, due to a pretty good plan and a lot of total absurdities. The main absurdity that is glossed over is the actual weight of gold.
The plot relies on some pretty convenient twists in order for everything to come out all right, but it shows that crime sort of pays, but also doesn’t, and that loyalty and friendship can help overcome bad guys.
The characterization is both a strong and weak point of Tower Heist. Josh is a well fleshed-out character. His attention to detail and pride in his work is well-motivated and his descent into desperation is nicely done. Eddie Murphy’s Slide is also pretty fun and is smooth and natural. Murphy’s natural comedic ability finally shows up after some horrible performances over the last few years.
Matthew Broderick, contrary to what many reviewers say, does a fine job in this film. His desperation, hang-dogness, pitiful Mr. Fitzhugh is the source of a lot of laughs. It’s nice to see Broderick still has a sense of timing and delivery.
But the movie doesn’t really know what to do with Shaw. He’s at times understandable and then opaquely evil. I didn’t like the characterization very much; it was inconsistent and the changes in his attitude were unmotivated, in my opinion. What’s more, Charlie is a waste of Casey Affleck’s talent. This is a very accomplished and skilled actor, and in this movie he’s a tool placed in convenient spots to allow the plot to ski over some tough parts.
Happily, Michael Pena is very funny. He plays Enrique and he is given a lot of funny lines.
Eddie Murphy and Stiller have some good comedic chemistry, but I have to say that there were moments between him and Sidibe that were actual gold. And Sidibe, I haven’t seen Precious, is very good in her very underused role.
All in all, I wasn’t bowled over by Tower Heist, but it was consistently entertaining and at times pretty funny. Hey, at least I didn’t feel robbed.
Content warnings: Some harsh language, a little violence, and the movie is about stealing.
Writing: 4 Acting: 4 Overall: 3.5
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