Tower Heist is a not-quite movie on several counts. It’s not quite as profane as some of Eddie Murphy’s better known works (Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, you remember right?). It is not quite as madcap and adventurous as the television show (M*A*S*H) that made Alan Alda a beloved performer. It is not quite as funny as Ben Stiller’s most iconic works (Zoolander, Meet The Parents, hell even Dodgeball) but it is also not quite as stupid as director Brett Ratner’s recent earlier works (Rush Hour 3, After the Sunset).
No actually Tower Heist has a fair bit going for it. It is quick, it is funny and it is centered around a decent idea – when the employees at an apartment complex that houses some of the richest people in New York learn that the man who lives in the penthouse is being investigated for large scale financial fraud (which also includes all their pension money) they decide to rob him.
Wait this guy is being investigated right, which means all his assets would have been frozen by the FBI? Yup. Except FBI agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni) helpfully informs Josh Kovacs (Stiller) that they haven’t found Arthur Shaw’s (Alda) stash of ready cash (that most people of his financial means keep close at hand).
Josh and his merry band of
building employees thieves recruit Slide (Murphy) a small-time crook to help rob Shaw’s apartment (where they think the money is hidden). The ‘impossible’ part of this mission comes from the fact that the building is heavily guarded, and Shaw is placed under house arrest in his very own home.
The idea is solid and there is plenty of room for hi-jinks but we have to remember that this is a Brett Ratner movie. So don’t go in there expecting a complicated heist scenario. This is a slight movie with slight pleasures. Eddie Murphy allows himself to really let go. As does Gabourey Sidibe whose performance here is a massively far cry from the role that made her famous. Ben Stiller does his Ben Stiller thing and it is still plenty amusing. Michael Peña is hilarious and the rest of the support cast is more than adequate.
If you’re fine with not being presented the nuts and bolts of several scenarios directly related to what these people are trying to accomplish, you will be moderately satisfied with the experience of watching Tower Heist. This is the type of movie that handsomely rewards low expectations.