Movie Review: “Tower Heist”

A comedy about working class stiffs who stick it to the Wall Street type who stole their savings?

Talk about ripped from today’s headlines. Talk about being in sync with the national mood.  Talk about Eddie Murphy, funny again after all these years.

“Tower Heist” is a winning “Robin Hood and his Merry Doormen” comedy about getting even. A cast of comedy specialists each deliver their comic specialties to perfection, delivering double-takes and one liners so well that you don’t notice how clunky the actual caper in this caper comedy is.

Ben Stiller is Josh, the ever-efficient building manager in “the priciest real estate in North America,” New York’s swank high-rise condo complex, The Tower.  It’s where the richest of the rich live. And Josh has drilled and drilled his staff on anticipating their every need.

“We’re all about discretion, here,” Josh lectures the new guy (Michael Pena). No client has to open his or her own door, no cheating husband ever has to worry he won’t be warned the wife is coming home early.

Guys like fund manager Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) are kept in coddled comfort thanks to the labor of many. Josh is the “fixer” who makes The Tower run like a well-oiled machine, and his employees adore him for it.

But the Feds arrest Shaw for financial wrongdoing, and Josh has to admit to his staff that he invested their retirement money with the swindler. As they take stock of working lives which they have nothing to show for, some think of suicide. Josh, feeling guilty, thinks of revenge — stealing that money back.

This Brett Ratner comedy was cast with able role players. Stiller does this good-at-his-job guy well.  Casey Affleck is spot-on as Josh’s lazy brother-in-law who can’t lose his savings or his job right now.

Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”) is hilariously on the make as a Jamaican maid who lost her savings and may lose her work visa if she can’t find a husband. Pena, of “The Lincoln Lawyer,”  is a hoot. It takes talent to play this clueless. Don’t call his character Enrique.

Try “The Puerto Rican Mohican,” he says. “That’s my hip hop name.”

Matthew Broderick is type-cast as the nebbish laid-off Merrill Lynch manager evicted from The Tower. He’s lost his job, his home and his wife. He’ll help with the heist.

But if they’re after Shaw’s hidden millions, they need more than people who know the building and who know Wall Street. They need a thief. They need Eddie Murphy, the Murphy of  1983’s “Trading Places” — manic, mouthy and menacing, a guy who can teach them how to pick a lock or lift a wallet.  The film’s funniest bits involve Stiller and Murphy remembering their pre-school past.

“Little seizure boy! Little seizure boy wants to rob somebody!”

Tea Leoni stages a “Flirting With Disaster” reunion with Stiller as an FBI agent on the Shaw case and ready to flirt with Josh, especially after she’s had a few drinks.

Alda makes a great patronizing patrician. He plays online chess with Josh, but he never lets him forget his place, demanding that Josh personally deliver his meals because “I don’t want the help spitting in my coffee.”

The one-liners pop and the cast delivers. And in “Tower Heist,” the caper itself becomes secondary when the message  hits this close to home. In this economy, we’re all “The Help.”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content

Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pena.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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