I walked into Tower Heist expecting it to be a film that could make me rally behind the 99%, some of which were camped out on the steps of Philadelphia’s City Hall, mere blocks away from my theater. In essence, Tower Heist is for them. The film follows Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), the dedicated manager of a ritzy high-rise who unknowningly places his trust and his staff’s pensions in the hands of weathy business man, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). It turns out Shaw is really behind a very elaborate Ponzi-esque scheme and Kovacs’ clock-punchers lose everything. One beloved staff member in particular is so distraught over the loss of his life savings he does something drastic. This sets into motion the remaining action of the film, in which Kovacs assembles a crack team of disgruntled and wronged employees and storms the proverbial castle.
But Kovacs doesn’t have career criminals at his disposal, with the exception of his neighbor Slide (Eddie Murphy). He has the loyal staff, including his brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck), former Wall Street player Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), elevator operator Enrique Dev’Reaux (Michael Pena), and chamber maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe). The rag-tag team hash out a plan to steal Shaw’s hidden funds which they believe to be in his sprawling penthouse suite.
Tower Heist is a film about delicate subject matter (especially given the modern political climate) ensconced in a very convincing comedy wrapper. The humor mostly works, especially as a vehicle for rejuvenating Eddie Murphy’s career, finally proving that he can be funny in a PG-13 setting. Hopefully this is a glimpse at what we can expect from his upcoming Oscar hosting performance early next year. Ben Stiller holds his own as the lead, with support by the rest of this solid cast.
In short, Tower Heist accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that is to be a fun, entertaining ride where the working stiffs win. I was surprised at how much I felt invested in these characters after a short time of getting acquainted with them. The “ra-ra” attitude is accomplished mostly by the film’s utilization of working class cliches and competently-handled emotional tugs at the audience’s heartstrings. How are we not supposed to root for the young daddy-to-be, an old doorman with a grandfatherly twinkle in his eye, and our good-natured neighbor who worked at BK?
As entertaining as this movie is though, it has a lot in common with the “Occupy (Fill in the Blank)” movement it so blatantly capitalizes on and panders to. The film complains, it gets pretty pissed, fights crime with more crime by seeking revenge in the most obnoxious way possible, and it fails to offer any long term solutions to a problem as old as time itself. But damn, it feels good sticking it to the Man.
Tower Heist opens in Philly-area theaters today.