This movie has plenty of star power in it. For me, that has generally suggested a less than stellar movie. I always figure producers try to compensate for a weak script by hiring big named actors. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Tower Heist. It is smart, funny, well acted, and entertaining. The script doesn’t talk down to the viewer and stays away from making the characters behave as fools or dullards.
At its heart, Tower Heist is a caper flick. The not-so-far-flung premise has Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller) as manager of an exclusive apartment building in New York City. Kovaks and his staff cater to the every need of their residents, especially the penthouse occupant Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). When Shaw is arrested by the FBI, they assume it is a misunderstanding. It is not. Shaw is the mastermind behind a huge Ponzi scheme. Sound familiar?
Like everyone else, Kovaks believed Mr. Shaw to be a nice, self-made man, who looked out for the little guy and could be trusted. That’s what prompted him to ask Shaw to invest the employees’ pension fund. With the Ponzi scheme collapsed, the pensions are gone. Kovaks is angry at Shaw. Tower staff are angry at Kovaks. Basically people’s lives are in ruin, since their retirement funds have vanished. That’s when the movie gets a bit less like real life and more like a movie. Kovaks wants redemption, revenge and repayment. Together with a gang made up of Slide, a childhood acquaintance, turned thief (Eddie Murphy); Mr. Fitzhugh, a down on his luck Wall Street broker (Matthew Broderick); and his ne’er do well brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck), Kovaks hatches a plan to get everyone’s pension investments back. What ensues is not consistently realistic, nor completely plausible, but is perfectly enjoyable. There are story holes in anything of this sort, but we’re suspending disbelief here.
For me, pieces of Tower Heist were reminiscent of the 1999 Thomas Crown Affair remake, offering some good twists and reasonable writing. Mind you, not the entire movie, but certainly elements. Stiller’s portrayal of Kovaks as an earnest, well intentioned person is believable and heartwarming. Unlike many of his recent acting attempts, Murphy plays a character that is both smart and obnoxious (rather than just the latter). Slide reminded me more of the parts that made Eddie Murphy famous than anything he’s done in years. Alan Alda plays his part perfectly. Characterizations throughout the movie were sometimes exaggerated, however, generally not so much so that I wanted to turn away.
Impossibilities and improbabilities aside, this was fine entertainment. It is, after all, just a movie. There’s humor, retribution, a little action, and even some romance. I’m not giving anything away to write that by the end of Tower Heist the good guys win and the bad guys lose. If you a have an extra 104 minutes and enjoy light comedy/action genre movies, Tower Heist may be a good match for you.
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