When you assemble in one place such comic luminaries as Judd Hirsch, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy – each in his own right a legend in the last millennium, even if they’ve all been quieter this one – and have current A-lister Ben Stiller into the bargain, then questions about values of parts and the sum of the whole will surely arise. While Tower Heist is a well-executed, lively and entertaining feature, it would have to be special indeed to live up to its billing. It doesn’t, quite.
Alda plays it straight as Arthur Shaw, a Bernie Madoff style tycoon living atop the titular Tower, an exclusive Manhattan high-rise with a swimming pool on its roof decorated with a $100 bill. Stiller is Josh Kovacs, the perfectionist building manager for the Tower: A soul of discretion and tact, catering to every possible whim of his residents. He lives way uptown on the other side of the tracks, arises at the crack of dawn, irons his own shirts, plays chess online with Shaw, and still arrives before his clients awake. He also looks after his ever-loyal staff: Josh has arranged for the staff pension plan to be invested by Shaw, a genius money manager, who has reluctantly acceded to the request. No prizes for guessing the surprise Alda has for everyone, and which drives the action in the film. Alda is put under house arrest by improbably-named FBI hack Gertie Fiansen (Téa Leoni), but not before secreting away $400m of missing cash, the only remnants of which are some modern art-works and being Steve McQueen’s 19634 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, which he has had restored and installed in his top-floor penthouse living room: how the other half live, to the max.
Josh hatches a plan find the cash and steal his staff’s pension back, and ropes in a few helpers. Much frivolity and hilarity follows. Eddie Murphy is Slide, a local hood in Stiller’s neighbourhood, enlisted for his criminal smarts, and is on fine form, machine-gun wise-cracking as if Beverley Hills Cop was only yesterday. Matthew Broderick is an overweight quant, down on his luck and recently fired from Merrill Lynch, who adds a couple of nice lines but generally seems underused, or perhaps overwhelmed, by the occasion. Judd Hirsch plays Stiller’s boss, and he plays it even straighter than Alda.
There is an interesting on-screen rumination about the value of parts as against the whole which I can’t disclose for fear of spoilers, but given the cast it struck me as ironic to say the least.
This is a fun Manhattan caper movie, but never quite reaches its potential. Tina Fey and Steve Carrell’s Date Night was to all intents the same film, only better, but it was bracing all the same to see Murphy in top gear, greats like Hirsch and Alda on the screen even if they didn’t have much to do, and interesting to see what had become of Broderick, although on this showing, I fear he is likely to head right back into the Where Are They Now file from whence he was apparently plucked.
Fun, but inessential.
Tower Heist hits cinemas 2nd November 2011.
Director: Brett Ratner
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck