November 23, 2011
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Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy
and Tea Leoni
Directed by Brent Ratner
104 min., PG-13
An all-star cast scales some hilarious heights in this timely yarn about a group of working-class heroes hung out to dry by a financial swindler.
As such, “Tower Heist” is certainly well timed, as America is roiling with unease about Wall Street gluttony, corporate greed and the ever-deepening chasm between the have-it-alls and the have-nots.
In such a climate of anxiety and uncertainty, it feels good to let go and laugh---especially at the antics of this inexperienced gang of “heisters” who hatch a scheme to steal back what was stolen from them.
Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Michael Peña play characters who’ve all been victimized by Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a smug billionaire broker who lives atop a swanky New York luxury condominium hotel, swims in a heated rooftop pool that looks like a big, watery $100 bill and fawns over his prize possession, a red Ferrari that once belonged to actor Steve McQueen.
When an FBI takedown reveals Shaw’s financial misdeeds, including fleecing the entire hotel staff of their pensions, a group of disgruntled employees decides to “storm the castle” and get it back. The hotel’s former manager (Stiller) recruits a streetwise childhood acquaintance, played by Eddie Murphy, to tutor the novice criminals.
As one character describes them, they’re Robin Hood and his Merry Doormen.
Téa Leone is an FBI agent who knows a rat when she smells one, and Gabrourey Sidibe (nominated for an Oscar for her starring role in “Precious”) plays a Jamaican hotel maid with a handy knack for safecracking.
Director Brent Ratner capably handles traffic control of all the funny actors, zinger lines and hysterical situations in which the characters find themselves, including the removal of the McQueen Ferrari against a backdrop, many stories below, of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The scenes in which the characters plan the caper are a harvest of hilarious, quick-fire one-liners, especially when Murphy’s motor mouth is cranking. It’s good to have him back in a grown-up, Shrek-free movie that lets him roll with the off-color, riff-tastic patter that’s always been at the core of his comedic DNA.
“Tower Heist” frequently recalls many other high-wire heist films, and it leaves several loopholes in its logic as its caper unfolds. (How DID that car end up in... Oh, never mind.) It’s no masterpiece, and it’s not trying to be.
It is, however, a score-one-for-the-little-guys triumph that finds a funny bone inside the modern-day muscle spasms of the financial agonies that have spread from Wall Street onto Main Street. Its lighthearted touch is a welcome balm for the wounds of a real world where economic downturns don’t always come with such an uplifting, smiles-all-around ending.