I heard someone recently describe Tower Heist as a “slapstick version of Ocean’s Eleven.” Sure. Only, if Oceans Eleven had the guts (or lack of brains, you make the call) to pit an eclectic group like Greg Focker, Ferris Bueller, Precious and Axel Foley against Hawkeye Pierce, I sincerely doubt Twelve and Thirteen would’ve seen the light of day.
Come to think of it though, now that I actually put those actor’s best known characters to print, Tower Heist does seem like it could be a lot of fun. But then, a lot of films probably look better on paper, huh?
Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand), a guy accustomed to juggling laughs and adrenaline, Tower Heist is no miss. It’s entertaining enough and pretty much serves up exactly what everyone expects it to. That, unfortunately, is also its biggest problem. There is nothing here that we haven’t seen before. Rumours of this flick being Eddie Murphy’s long awaited comeback vehicle are officially overexaggerated; while it’s not the usual kiddie comedy he serves up while half asleep, it’s tired enough that, for Eddie anyway, Daddy Daycare might not be closed for business just yet.
The plot has wealthy Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a Bernie Madoff-esque financier, living atop the Tower, New York’s priciest and most exclusive highrise, where a dedicated staff tends to the very specific needs of the building’s snooty tenants. In charge of the team is Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), saddled with the heartbreaking task of telling everyone their pension fund is down to zip when old Artie gets arrested for fraud.
A-ha, but what about Shaw’s rumoured $20 million stash that FBI Special Agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni) hasn’t been able to track down? Josh puts together both a plan and a team to get back the cash, drafting -— amongst others — his concierge brother (Casey Affleck), a safecracking maid (Gabourey Sidibe), a jittery banker (Matthew Broderick) and the only criminal he knows, Slide (Murphy), a former daycare classmate. Yes, daycare.
Kinda dumb? Yup. Sloppy? Parts of it, yes. (Sidibe should never, ever attempt another Jamaican character. Ever). Yet, if you’re in the right mood, Tower Heist is passable escapism. Like the recent thriller In Time, this comedy probably benefits for being topical. With mass populations occupying and rallying against the rich, this silly, screwball fluff provides a safe place to temporarily hide from scary economic reality.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Tower Heist a two and a half. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living and watching in the Okanagan.