Tower Heist as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothA Game Of Chess

Stars: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Tea Leoni, Stephen Henderson, Judd Hirsch, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe, Nina Arianda, Marcia Jean Kurtz and Juan Carlos Hernandez
Director: Brett Ratner
Scriptwriters: Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson
Rating: PG 13 for language and themed material
Running Length: 104 minutes

Oh, it is good to see Eddie Murphy sink his teeth into a role again, even for a shorter time. His turn as Slide, a small-time thief and "crime advisor" gives us a glimpse of the Eddie Murphy from 48 Hours, though bantering with Ben Stiller is a far cry from bantering with Nick Nolte. Still, we take what we can get. Tower Heist is the story of an improbable robbery that goes into Keystone Kops land with a touch of Harold Lloyd to boot. It is revenge and the villain is Alan Alda, smirk and all, as a manipulator of funds from your pocket into his. This time, it is from the pension fund of employees at a hotel where Alda has a penthouse suite.

Ben Stiller is the hotel manager, who works 26-hour days keeping guests happy and the staff on their toes. Alda has a penthouse with its own pool, plus a genuine Steve McQueen red Ferrari in the living room. Soon, we find that Alda has been indicted for securities fraud, but he knows people, so is back in the penthouse saying "I'm sorry" to everyone. Stiller is furious, but FBI agent Tea Leoni says Alda is under house arrest and no one can touch him. Oh, yeah? The plot thickens as Stiller and friends--Casey Affleck (young married), Matthew Broderick (former Wall Street and now without wife), Stephen Henderson (doorman who lost pension), Gabourey Sidibe (maid who lost pension), Nina Arianda (secretary from Russia who is studying to be a lawyer), Michael Pena (lost pension) and Marcia Jean Kurtz (Stiller's assistant who is always one step behind him.) They figure Alda has loot stashed somewhere in the hotel, but where and how to get it with the Thanksgiving Day parade and visitors there? Never say never. Away we go on a wild ride involving a runaway truck, someone who knows how to pick a lock, someone with the brain of a computer, and someone who always feels picked on (Eddie Murphy.)

There are surprises in the film and little twists in the plot that are enough to keep you whetted. However, I felt a bit let down. So much ground is covered that the audience does not have time to take it all in. We are introduced to a character, such as Gabourey Sidibe and told she wants to get married to stay in this country, but then there is nothing more about it. Michael Pena, as the new doorman, knows something about everything, but we don't know where he gained this knowledge. One minute we are in the planning of a robbery and the next minute at someone's apartment because they want to bail out and the minute after that talking to the F. B. I., so you see what I mean? "Tower Heist" would have made a good television series.

Special effects are good, including elevators and building climbing. You read that right. Tea Leoni is not an effective federal agent. She recites her lines. Judd Hirsch isn't present enough to make an impression. But, Nina Arianda as a Russian woman trying to be a lawyer is a find and Matthew Broderick shines as a man who lost everything and has to relearn courage all over again. Stephen Henderson's Lester, the doorman, steals his scenes and shows emotion. Unfortunately, Gabourey Sidibe's accent is so thick at times, you catch every third word.

Ben Stiller, and it is his movie, has an emotionless face and when he is in a scene with, for example, Stephen Henderson, Stiller seems lost. Alan Alda plays an arrogant businessman like a playbook, he's done it before. Casey Affleck is like Stiller, emotionless face, so when he talks about his first child being born soon, it makes no impression for the audience. Tower Heist could have been called "Frozen Face Caper." All in all, Tower Heist takes you on a ride to where rich people live and sometimes that's not the place to be at all.


Copyright 2011 Marie Asner