- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
rett Ratner’s films have never been accused of sweating the small stuff, and for once that works in his favor. Yes, “Tower Heist” is saddled with some crippling flaws in logic and execution (not to mention pissing all over several laws of physics), but it still manages to entertain throughout, and even dares to go dark in the third act. At no point does the movie promise more than it can deliver, though to be fair, that’s a polite way of saying that it’s not trying very hard.
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) manages the exclusive Tower apartment building, and is extremely good at his job. He knows everything there is to be known about each tenant, and has developed a rapport with high-rolling investment banker Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), who owns the penthouse suite. Shaw even agreed to manage the pensions of the building staff at Josh’s request. One day, Shaw is arrested for securities fraud, and Josh discovers that the employee pensions have been wiped out. Shaw shows little remorse for wrecking the lives of the staff, and Josh, along with bellhop DevReaux (Michael Pena) and assistant manager Charlie (Casey Affleck) are soon fired after severely damaging one of Shaw’s prized possessions in retaliation. During a booze-fueled conversation with Josh, FBI agent Denham (Tea Leoni) lets slip that most defrauders keep a stash worth roughly $20 million nearby, so Josh, Charlie, DevReaux, recently evicted Tower tenant and businessman Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), and Slide (Eddie Murphy), Josh’s childhood friend with an adult criminal record, hatch a plan to find the stash and make things right.
That’s one of the lengthier plot summary paragraphs you’ll ever see on this site, but don’t let it fool you – the story actually has a Zen-like straightforwardness to it. Their building is called the Tower, and a few jilted employees plan a heist. It’s literally an “Ocean’s” movie for dummies, since all of the would-be robbers are amateurs. Not even Murphy’s Slide has pulled a job of this magnitude. Ratner, to his credit, keeps the camera work simple, with only a handful of splashy crane shots. The characters are the focus, as it should be.
These characters, though, aren’t nearly as interesting as Danny Ocean and his crew, with the exception of Stiller, who relishes the opportunity to be in charge after spending a decade-plus as a comedic punching bag. The casting of Casey Affleck was a shrewd move, but he could have used a partner, a Scott Caan to bounce his lines off of. The movie gets better when Murphy finally shuts the hell up – his motor mouth shtick gets old in a hurry – yet from a plot perspective, it’s a bit of a cheat. Alda is clearly having fun playing the white collar con artist, confident in his ability to beat the system without resorting to cartoon villainy. The job itself is, of course, preposterous, especially in today’s camera phone world, but disbelief is surprisingly easy to suspend here.
“Tower Heist” is not a great movie, but it never pretends to be. It has a mentality fitting of its working class victims; keep your head down, get the job done, and don’t be a show-off. That’s an admirable quality coming from an industry built on narcissism, though whether such an endeavor should cost $85 million to make is up for debate.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
The movie itself may have been average, but the bonus features on the "Tower Heist" Blu-ray are far better than your typical goodies. There are two alternate endings, and while the one in the film is the best way to end the movie, the two here aren't terrible, and we're frankly surprised they didn't go with the longer of the two because it's very Hollywood. There is a great gag reel, and the deleted and extended scenes are all good for a laugh. There are 40 minutes of featurettes that cover the making of the movie, the set design, and the replica of Steve McQueen's car. Director Brett Ratner also contributes a video diary and an audio commentary along with his editor and the movie's screenwriters. Not a bad haul.