In the penthouse suite of the fanciest hotel in New York City, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is living it up as an investment banker. He’s popular with the staff too, including workaholic manager Josh (Ben Stiller) and concierge Charlie (Casey Affleck), and takes care of some of the hotel’s finances.
But when Arthur is arrested for dodgy dealings, and accused of stealing billions of dollars, Josh must tell his staff that their company pensions have been lost.
Angry at being lied to and stolen from, Josh assembles a rag-tag band of staff, accompanied by ‘professional criminal’ who lives on his street, Slide (Eddie Murphy), and plans to break into the penthouse and find the money.
Tower Heist, directed by Brett Ratner, is a comedy crime-caper, impressing the importance of friendship and loyalty, cheering for the underdogs, and illustrating how money and power can corrupt. It doesn’t get heavy handed though, presenting it’s themes frothily, with clear cut good vs bad.
The plot is straightforward, too straightforward to be really satisfying. Like the film, Josh’s plan is smoothly engineered with few consequences. The culmination of the heist coincides with the Thanksgiving Day Parade, with huge crowds blocking off the main streets of Manhattan. Josh pulls out some neat tricks to distract the FBI, involving his whole staff, further emphasising the Robin Hood-esque nature of the characters which culminates in the distribution of the loot at the end of the film. This raised a much needed titter, and ensured the film didn’t end on a total slump.
The first scene too was a high; zooming out from Benjamin Franklin’s eyes to show a $100 bill tiled onto the bottom of Arthur’s private swimming pool.
Arthur is a parody of a fat-cat, smug and irredeemable, whilst Josh is hard-working and dependable. Having the characters so compartmentalised is convenient for the plot and a younger audience, but doesn’t really allow for much development from the cast. Alda’s performance made Arthur very unlikeable, but it was difficult to empathise with the other characters because they were so averagely “every-man”.
Murphy didn’t surprise or entertain as Slide. He was high-energy, but it did not transfer through the screen; only his speech about “titties” was funny, mildly at that, and Odessa’s (Gabourey Sidibe) blatant come-on’s. The laughs were all goof-ball though, and became routine. It’s all been done before, with the same actors too, no less.
Tower Heist is book-ended with two stand-out scenes. Throw your brain out of the window and you’ll be rewarded with some middling goof-ball gags and some over the top visual antics with a familiar plot to string them all together.
But from the director of the Rush Hour trilogy (1998, 2001, 2007), what else could we expect?