Movie Review: ‘Tower Heist’

November 3, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015
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(L-R) Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, and Gabourey Sidibe, talk shop in 'Tower Heist,' an action-comedy about a group who seeks revenge on the Wall Street swindler who stiffed them. (David Lee/ Universal Studios)
(L-R) Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, and Gabourey Sidibe, talk shop in 'Tower Heist,' an action-comedy about a group who seeks revenge on the Wall Street swindler who stiffed them. (David Lee/ Universal Studios)

Tower Heist is a big, slick Hollywood comedy starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. They should project it onto the side of a building near Zucotti Park to give the “Occupy Wall Street” occupiers some comic relief. Then again, seeing Alan Alda playing a Wall Street villain might incite a riot.

It’s likely we’ll be seeing more movies about scandalous Wall Street criminals coming down the pipeline. Perhaps the fairly funny “Tower Heist” will help us all take the bilking and bailing-out lightly.

Tower Heist
is a payback caper involving the staff working at the tower of the title (actually, it’s Donald Trump’s Tower, but oddly The Donald doesn’t have a cameo).

They all give their retirement savings to Arthur Shaw (Alda), the wealthy Wall Streeter in the penthouse (who happens to be under house arrest for securities fraud) in order to have him triple their investments. Turns out, he more or less Ponzi-schemes the entire blue-collar lot of them. As one character puts it, that’s 29 years’ worth of opening doors down the drain.

Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller), plays the building manager who rounds up a motley crew of disgruntled employees to go steal their money back—out of Shaw’s wall-safe. As Josh points out, they’ve all been “casing the joint” for years and just didn’t recognize it as such.

But first Josh visits Shaw’s apartment and goes all Jack Nicholson on his prize Ferrari (that means beating a man’s vehicle to death with a golf club). This gets Josh fired. Then the fun begins.

Accompanied by a James Bond-like score, it’s “Mission Impossible”-like shenanigans for the tower vigilantes, plus one tower resident, a former “Master-of-the-universe”-turned squatter (Matthew Broderick), and one actual thief (Eddie Murphy).

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It’s a return to form for the now-legendary Eddie Murphy, who’s had a long string of playing multiple roles in movies in CGI fat-suits, plus the donkey in “Shrek.” His edgy street character is a little rusty and not as raw as he used to be, but Eddie can still bring the funny.

Ben Stiller impresses with his solidity in carrying the movie, and Casey Affleck is always hilariously deadpan. Matthew Broderick, still remembered 25 years later for setting a new comedic standard as Ferris Bueller, is under-utilized here. Téa Leoni, who possibly heads up the short list of A-list funny beauties, also struggles to breathe life into lack-luster lines.

Gabourey Sidibe, best known as the lead in the harrowing child-abuse film Precious, is a bit of a revelation. Her comedic timing and Jamaican accent are both spot on.

You’d think with that list of comedic heavy-hitters, Tower Heist would knock the comedy out of the park. It sometimes comes close, but the script and the jokes are a tad too predictable.

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