A bit of popcorn fun that features both the little guy getting back at “the man” but also a return to form for Eddie Murphy. The problem may be that there are so many stars that it’s hard to find places to shoehorn a bit for everyone and the heist seems like one more fit for the screenplay than a real one.
The Tower is an exclusive high-rise New York apartment building and the richest tenant is investor Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) who swims daily in a rooftop pool with a hundred dollar bill graphic in it. Building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) makes sure his and every other tenants’ needs or whims are met.
His staff includes concierge and brother in law Charlie (Casey Affleck), beloved doorman Lester (Stephen Henderson), newly hired elevator operator Enrique (Michael Pena), and maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe). Times are hard though and he’s told by his boss (Judd Hirsch) to evict Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), a bankrupt Wall Street investor who can’t pay his rent anymore. The usual busy day at the Tower is interrupted when it appears that Shaw is being kidnapped.
An event that is discovered to be a raid by Agent Denham (Tea Leoni) because Shaw has been embezzling money. As the financial fallout is realized from Shaw’s deception, the staff discovers that their pensions had been turned over to him and that they too are bankrupt and even worse Shaw is placed on house arrest and confined to his penthouse.
After Lester nearly dies thanks to the loss of his nest egg, Josh goes off on Shaw and gets fired along with Charlie and Enrique. Josh then recruits them, Fitzhugh, and his neighborhood tough Slide (Eddie Murphy) to find and steal back the 20 million that Shaw has hidden to replenish their retirement funds.
I don’t know if any of the people involved in the film had any money invested with Bernie Madoff, but the film is certainly plays on those events (even thought the idea predates those events). Nice guy Alda certainly excels as the target and knows when to turn on the arrogance so that we hope he gets what he deserves. Stiller also makes a good average guy who after serving everyone’s needs finally recognizes how this rich guy screwed them and plots revenge.
Of course that revenge requires an ancillary cast of characters to pull it off. The law gets cast in the form of the lovely Leoni and a romantic entanglement for Stiller, but our erstwhile gang of thieves is anything but. They have to pull in a real shady character in the form of Murphy and it is a welcome return to something more akin to his persona in Trading Places or Beverly Hills Cop instead of his family friendly mode.
Broderick gets to go Buehler but more towards the end of the picture, Sidibe puts on a convincing Jamaican accent and some funny flirting with Murphy, Pena gets to charm and use his two semesters of DeVry training, and Affleck is the dunce who is flustered with his upcoming fatherhood. Throw in several other characters and you’ve got quite a crowded plate. Everyone gets a little something but there’s bound to have some characters getting shortchanged.
Not to mention that, however thrilling and wanting to get back at our rich bastard, the heist is a complicated one and certainly one that a bunch of amateurs couldn’t pull off. One I’m not sure is physically possible considering the weight of their haul. Fortunately, there is enough to at least entertain if you don’t think too much about it.
Tower Heist is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (2.40:1). Special features are presented in high definition and include a commentary from director Brett Ratner, editor Mark Helfrich, and writers Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson, a 23 minute video diary from Ratner, the 45 minute “Plotting Tower Heist” making of, two alternate endings (3 minutes total), 6 minutes of alternate and deleted scenes, and a 4 minute gag reel. U-Control offers a picture-in-picture storyboard/previz track and the Music of Tower Heist that pops up info about the score and songs. You can also download the Pocket Blu app that puts extra content on your iPad or laptop. The disc is also BD-Live equipped and disc two is a DVD/digital-Ultraviolent streaming copy.
Tower Heist has some timeliness in our financial times, great characters, but features a heist that I’d imagine trained professionals having difficulty pulling off – especially since our amateurs have to come up with most of it on the fly. It is a fun ride, if you’re willing to give it a chance.
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