It may seem like a back-handed assessment, but maybe the best way to sum up Tower Heist is that it is not as terrible as you might expect.
Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, manager of ‘The Tower’, one of Manhattan’s most luxurious addresses, and home to billionaire financier Arthur Shaw (played brilliantly by Alan Alda).
Shaw is eventually busted on fraud charges, a situation made especially sticky since Kovacs trusted Shaw to invest the pensions of the entire Tower staff.
When he’s informed by FBI agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni) that there is little chance of recovering the lost pensions, Kovacs decides he must take matters into his own hands by stealing back the money from Shaw's penthouse.
There are no real surprises in how the plot pans out from here, but needless to say people seeking a rich and intelligent heist film should search elsewhere.
In saying that, director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour trilogy) keeps the film moving at a nice steady pace, and scene to scene, the movie tends to keep the viewer engaged and entertained. It's kind of like a painting done by a toddler – it's not very good, but they're trying so hard to impress that you can't help but smile.
Ratner also has a penchant for odd-couple casting, and while on paper, a cast that consists of Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alda, Leoni, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Precious star Gabourey Sidibe and Matthew Broderick would seem pretty strange, this eclectic group has great chemistry and keep things light and humorous. Nobody in the cast is wasted, and they in fact become the real strong suit of what would have otherwise been a very average film.
Perhaps the highlight of Tower Heist though is the return of Eddie Murphy. After so many years lost in the vacuum of kids movies playing cheap, hammed-up stereotypes, he returns to the realm of adult comedy, showing glimpses of what made him such a prodigy so many years ago.
On a less positive note, Tower Heist can’t overcome the sense that in aspiring to be a movie of so many different genres, it doesn’t really satisfy any one particularly well. As a straight comedy, it’s hardly laugh-out-loud. As a heist film, it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to maintain interest in the plot.
Typically, a heist movie has to be somewhat believable in its execution of the actual heist, and offer a few surprises along the way. Upon close inspection, very little of what happens in Tower Heist’s third act can be construed as believable, the misdirection is pretty transparent, and the surprises will have you laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of it all.
But at the end of the day, Tower Heist is a carefree popcorn flick that succeeds in being fun, often funny, and is generally very enjoyable – so long as you don’t look too hard at the plot and all of the many, many, holes that riddle it.