Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy team up to rob a Wall Street money-shuffler in director Brett Ratner’s comedy heist. But is it a winning combination…
Tower Heist involves a neatly assembled set of brave nine-to-fivers standing up for what’s right in a world ruled by “the man”. The “man” in this case is Alan Alda’s Arthur Shaw, a career Wall Street money-shuffler whose dodgy transactions come under the scrutiny of the government who believe him to have stolen $2 billion. This is cause for concern for The Tower’s building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller). Unbeknownst to his staff, Kovacs allowed Shaw to invest their pension fund, believing he could triple their return.
Now the money is gone and Shaw will probably walk free. After Kovacs confronts him over the allegation he ends up losing his job along with a couple of fellow staff members. So he, with concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), bellhop Enrique (Michael Pena), building resident Mr Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and local criminal Slide (Eddie Murphy), decide to break into Shaw’s apartment using their unique knowledge of the building and steal back the money he took from them.
The film is the sort of amiable fun you get when a group of A-List stars on multimillion dollar contracts phone in their performances. By no means are the likes of Stiller and Murphy out of their depth in such throwaway comedy roles; indeed, they suit them perfectly. However, like their performances, the film has a familiarity about it that saps the energy and leaves it feeling stale and unloved. While it plays on particularly relevant themes – concern over pensions and financial security are the main targets alongside hand-slapping for those dastardly rich bankers who broke the system – it is unfortunately built on formula and stereotype. For example, if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll guess immediately who is the criminal mastermind when faced with the proposition: Stiller or Murphy?
Elsewhere, Gabourey Sidibe who played Precious in the film of the same name, is a sort of caricatured Caribbean diva with a faux Jamaican accent reminiscent of John Candy having a little fun with his bobsleigh team in Cool Runnings. Matthew Broderick swans around aimlessly, lamenting his former life as a Wall Street hotshot while ensuring any financial explanations are given on cue for the characters and the audience, while Stiller is essentially the same everyman he always plays.
“The film is the sort of amiable fun you get when a group of A-List stars on multimillion dollar contracts phone in their performances. By no means are the likes of Stiller and Murphy out of their depth in such throwaway comedy roles; indeed, they suit them perfectly. However, like their performances, the film has a familiarity about it that saps the energy and leaves it feeling stale and unloved.”
Therefore, Tower Heist has no real spark. The plot is predictable, following in the limelight of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11, but doesn’t have the same sturdy foundation. Tea Leoni’s unconvincing FBI agent, breaking the rules one minute, making them the next, adapts to the story’s needs depending on what dramatic turn of events is required. The humour is too straight-laced, not slapstick enough to hold the attention when credibility is thrown out the window. One of the great things about Danny Ocean’s Vegas heist in Ocean’s 11 was the plausible nature of their robbery. Tower Heist doesn’t have this as the intricacies of the con fall down under even the most casual scrutiny. That said, director Brett Ratner fashions a suitably nervy, vertigo-inducing sequence involving Stiller’s band of merry men stealing a car from the penthouse floor hundreds of feet high in the sky. They crane it out the window and attempt to lower it to the apartment below. All plausibility is brushed under the carpet at this point, Ratner deciding to simply remove any reference as to how these amateur robbers move the car around the building (magic doors I’m guessing), but he at least gets the butterflies buzzing in the stomach with his sky high aerial photography.
Tower Heist fails to distinguish itself. Its muddled comedy is lost in a nowhere land between witty humour and outlandish slapstick that is neither funny or intelligently realised enough to sufficiently paper over the cracks in the plot.
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Written by: Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe
Released: 2011 / Genre: Comedy / Country: USA / IMDB