Published Nov 03, 2011It's certainly an appropriate time to fantasize about robbing unrepentant, wealthy jerks and Tower Heist provides exactly that: a completely unrealistic and highly entertaining action/comedy about a bunch of 99 percenters pulling a fast one on Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), one of the wealthiest men in New York City.
Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, the staff manager of a condominium building that boasts the highest property values in Manhattan; Shaw is the building's wealthiest resident and swims in a dollar-bill-shaped private rooftop pool. After Shaw is indicted for fraud and declares bankruptcy, the building's staff find themselves without their pensions, which they had Shaw invest.
All the usual characters are here: maids, butlers, concierges, doormen, security guys ― anything to keep the rich people happy 24/7. Once the awful truth becomes clear, Kovacs convinces a few of his cohorts, plus Eddie Murphy, as an overtly racially stereotyped career criminal, to break into Shaw's condo and steal the supposed 20 million he has stashed away from the feds.
There's no doubt the film presents a highly unlikely scenario, but the suspension of disbelief is a necessary component of fully immersing oneself in the pleasures of fantasy this film offers. Plus, it's decently funny; it isn't pitch-perfect and a few of the jokes fall flat, but for the most part, the comedy aspect is a success. Some of the gags rely heavily on stereotypes, racial and otherwise, but this is Hollywood, after all.
Stiller and Matthew Broderick (as a down-on-his-luck former resident of the condo building) are both old hands and deliver their gags with the typical wry subtlety and adorable naiveté we've come to expect from them. Casey Affleck is excellent as Stiller's brother-in-law, and a pleasantly surprising turn comes from Michael Peña, who has already proved his comedy chops on Eastbound & Down. Eddie Murphy is in the film just enough, but not too much ― a wise choice, since his bombastic, unhinged character is constantly yelling and doing crazy things, too much of which would have thrown the pitch off .
Most striking is the fact that a big-budget mainstream project with lots of stars brings up a topic rarely depicted with such humour and honesty in Hollywood. That is, the life of work that the majority of people live: servitude, wage labour, just getting by, barely saving enough for retirement and repeating the same menial and frequently unnecessary tasks day in and day out just to make life a little easier for the wealthy.
Much of the film's humour depends on the element of surprise, so it may not stand up over repeated viewings, but it's definitely a sharp and fun take on some socio-political issues that Hollywood rarely ever dares touch with a ten-foot pole. (Universal)