Eddie Murphy is stealing again in the caper comedy “Tower Heist” – stealing scenes, that is.
He’s back in great comic form alongside a star-filled cast led by Ben Stiller in an unexpectedly breezy, slick, funny flick. It does get outlandish along the way, but that’s part of the fun.
Stiller plays Josh, the building manager of the Tower, a luxury high-rise apartment complex in New York City where the average dwelling costs $5 million.
It’s Josh’s job to make sure the tenants get what they want – extreme pampering – while managing a large and unwieldy staff that includes concierge Charlie (an expectedly solid Casey Affleck), new elevator operator Enrique (a surprisingly funny Michael Pena) and maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe from “Precious” – nice to see she wasn’t just a fluke).
Josh also has to deal with a squatter, Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), a former Wall Street numbers-cruncher who refuses to be evicted.
But his main priority is Arthur Shaw (a deliciously devilish Alan Alda), the uber-wealthy tenant of the Tower’s posh penthouse. Josh attends to Mr. Shaw’s every need, no matter how petty, and it’s clear that Josh has the utmost respect for him.
That’s why it’s such a shock to Josh and the Tower staff when FBI agents show up to arrest Mr. Shaw. The next day, TV news reports that Shaw is the perpetrator of one of the biggest financial scams in history.
This upsets Josh, who must report to the staff that he had asked Shaw to reinvest money set aside for the employees’ pension – and that now it is all gone. The workers are devastated.
Racked by guilt and anger after one of the staff tries to commit suicide, Josh pays Shaw a visit, with damaging results.
With more thinking, Josh then vows to rob Shaw’s high-rise apartment because he thinks he knows the location of Shaw’s secret safe. He talks Charlie, Enrique and Mr. Fitzhugh into joining him, but they aren’t thieves, so Josh asks the only criminal he knows – a street thug named Slide (Murphy) – to teach them how to steal, with comic results.
From there, situations escalate, and the plot does some twisting. Things really get engaging when the actual heist kicks in.
Stiller is refreshingly subdued here, being a calm center instead of a caged one. The rest of the able cast shines, as well.
It’s a big-budget, glossy affair, one that director Brett Ratner (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) is all too happy to revel in. But he makes it a fun time, balancing the comedy with the robbery plot.
And while “Tower Heist” may feel reminiscent of the “Ocean’s” movies, it stands on its own (refreshingly lacking those films’ snide hipness).
“Tower Heist” ultimately aims big, and mostly delivers, if you just go with the flow. This robbery pays off.