If you’re looking for a couple of laughs at the expense of crude humor and an unimaginative plot acted out by a team of top-billing actors, Tower Heist is the movie for you.
The story itself follows a pretty typical “Robin Hood” story of stealing from the (corrupt) rich and giving to the (idiotic) needy. Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) is the well-liked manager of The Tower, an upscale hotel in downtown New York, where he knows everyone from the elevator workers to the penthouse occupant Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). The only problem in Kovacs’ life is that he lives in a run down part of town and is constantly heckled by “Slide” (Eddie Murphy).
Shaw, a multi-millionaire business mogul is arrested by the FBI for fraud and placed under constant watch in his penthouse. Soon, the employees of The Tower realize that Shaw had swindled them out of their money and lost all of their investments. The most hard hit by financial woes is friendly doorman Lester (Stephen McKinley Henderson), who by attempting to step in front of a subway train, prompts Kovacs to intentionally smash the windows of Shaw’s priceless antique car.
After being fired for his inappropriate behavior along with coworkers Dev’Reaux (Michael Pena) and Charlie (Casey Afleck), Kovacs contacts an evicted Tower resident Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and devises a plan to get back for his friends the money he had entrusted to Shaw. Realizing that they are incompetent when it comes to crime, Kovacs enlists the help of Slide as their experienced criminal and their plan for vengeance commences.
Though the plot of the movie is unoriginal to say the least, Tower Heist does feature a great cast, a few genuine laughs and more than one “edge-of-your-seat” suspenseful moments. Character chemistry, for example Kovacs’ brief romance with FBI agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni), is sometimes uncomfortable and irrelevant to the plot.
Murphy’s performance as an abrasive, loud-mouthed, stereotypical felon provides most of the laugh-out-loud comedy in the film, but ultimately does no more than perpetuate the stereotypes of black characters in film. Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), a sassy Jamaican woman and Tower servant, also supports the misconception that black women are foolish and can’t be taken seriously.
Two actors stood out as true gems in the Tower Heist crown: Affleck and Broderick. Affleck plays a young and soft spoken man just trying to get through each day supporting his pregnant wife (in the movie Kovacs’ sister) and their unborn child. Each of his lines is delivered perfectly in a quiet and raspy voice, and his obliviousness to his own ineptitude is entertaining, to say the least.
Broderick, a fan-favorite from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, plays to a T the kicked-while-he’s-down fidgety tenant who has lost his family and fortune. Towards the end of the movie, a climactic scene involving the antique car in a penthouse room with walls of glass brings back jarring and uncomfortable memories of Ferris Bueller’s misadventures.
I have created an infallible system by which to rate movies. Categories are venue, price, travel distance, and actual movie quality. Some movies, take Inception for example, are very worth the big screen, surround sound, $8 price tag and comfy Brier Creek cinema seats.
Some movies like 2012 or Avatar (links) are only worth seeing for the special effects and sheer visual beauty. If you are a die-hard action or sci-fi fan, seeing these movies on the big screen is a must, but maybe not worth more than $5. The solution: the $2 movie theater on Blue Ridge Road. A bit of a hike, and the seats are essentially metal folding chairs, but if the movie is halfway decent, it is the best bang for your two bucks.
At the lowest end of the spectrum, a movie like Gnomeo & Juliet is not worth the big screen, any money or the most comfortable seats in the universe. If you’re desperate for gnome dramedy, you might be better off renting or streaming instantly on Netflix.
I would put Tower Heist into the lower of the three categories because it is not terribly visually stunning, the story is neither new nor mentally stimulating, and the overall quality is about five stars… out of ten.