“Tower Heist” provides the sort of Robin Hood-style wish fulfillment romp that recession-era audiences are exactly in the mood for.
Josh (Ben Stiller) is the building manager of a Trump Tower-like luxury apartment building known only as The Tower, which is owned by multi-billionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), who also takes up residence in the building’s penthouse suite.
Shaw is arrested for the white-collar theft of millions, cheating Josh and the rest of The Tower’s staff out of their savings in the process. Angry and frustrated at Shaw’s lack of remorse, Josh and his “merry band of doormen” decide to take matters into their own hands and steal millions thought to be hidden away in Shaw’s penthouse.
With America’s anger towards corporate greed and Bernie Madoff-type figures at an all time high, this movie could not come at a better time. It portrays the 99 percent exacting justice on the 1 percent by conducting a zany heist – both getting results in the end and not having to camp out on Wall Street.
The true strength in the movie lies in its large ensemble cast spearheaded by Stiller, who plays the role of the earnest working man with his trademark awkward charm.
Eddie Murphy takes a break from voicing the “Shrek” movies and returns in front of the camera as a petty criminal that Josh enlists to help break into Shaw’s penthouse. Murphy is back in full force, dropping rapid-fire blasts of quotable lines and keeping the rest of the cast on their toes.
Members of Josh’s heist team include Casey Affleck and Matthew Broderick. Affleck plays Josh’s well-meaning but clueless brother-in-law and Tower employee with a baby on the way. Broderick plays a sadsack, evicted tenant of the Tower whose career was ruined by a Wall Street investment scam.
Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious” fame and Michael Pena round out the heist crew and end up stealing the show. Sidibe is endlessly charming as a maid facing deportation back to Jamaica and Pena takes away a fair share of Murphy’s laughs as the hapless new elevator attendant.
Alda plays the villain beautifully, almost winning over the audience with his undeniable charm before showing his teeth later on and Tea Leoni takes a few scenes of her own as the boozy FBI agent sympathetic with the Tower employees’ plight.
Nothing in this movie is plausible, but that’s half the fun. Directed by Brett Ratner, who helmed the “Rush Hour” series, “Tower Heist” shares those movies’ quick pace and cartoonish action, but puts a more relatable human face on it.
With its working class Robin Hoods and money-hoarding villains, the movie really does try to put a fun spin on America’s recession woes.
While not trying to break any barriers, “Tower Heists” acts as a perfect dose of escapism from the daily grind.