I have to admit I have a soft spot for movies involving a group of people, all with different skill sets, who come together to pull off a job. And that may be the reason I enjoyed Tower Heist as much as I did, that and the fact that it has an odd cast that works very well together and with its sense of humour in the right place.
Directed by Brett Ratner (the same who guy who gave us X-Men: The Last Stand and the Rush Hour series), the story is of a group of fired employees of an expensive hotel, lead by Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), who decide to steal $20 million from one of the hotel’s residents (Alan Alda) after they find out he defrauded them of their pensions. With the help of an “expert thief” Josh knows (Eddie Murphy) they plan and execute the robbery to perfection… or at least try to.
Tower Heist is nothing we haven’t seen before done a lot better. It could readily be described as the “Diet Ocean’s,” lacking the wit and panache of Steven Soderbergh’s franchise (although funnily enough one of the writers, Ted Griffin, actually co-wrote Ocean’s Eleven). But on its own merits this is an enjoyable film where you actually, shockingly, care about the characters and their quest for monetary revenge.
This is helped largely by a likeable ensemble cast including a solid Ben Stiller (a hit or miss actor as of late) and a surprisingly good Eddie Murphy, returning to comedic form after such clunkers as Meet Dave, Imagine That, and Norbit. Other supporting players include Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck (another Ocean’s connection), Michael Peña, and Gabourey Sidibe, who I’m glad to see getting more roles after her amazing debut turn in Precious, here displaying her evidently sharp funny bone. Each of the cast get their chance to throw in one-liners, each bring something slightly different to the comedic table.
Another reason I actually cared about the characters being successful in their endeavour is the real world drama behind their being wronged. People have been defrauded and lost their money in similar situations and the film uses that as a basis for motivation, even if it’s for a quite preposterous set of events. That gives it a sense of weight which other similar movies might not have.
As happens with a lot of these types of movies, Tower Heist suffers from going too far into the ridiculous. The overall premise is slightly ridiculous in and of itself but it’s at least somewhat believable in its own weird way. But as it progresses the film is guilty of taking it too far, one point in particular involving how the gang of thieves are going to finally pull off the job is too absurd and over-the-top to be convincing, even within the film’s own world.
So while it might not be redrawing the blueprint for heist movies and might veer into the ludicrous more than it should, Tower Heist is nonetheless an entertaining caper with a good cast and pretty consistent laughs. One of the biggest pleasant surprises of the year so far.