I hate director Brett Ratner! I despise him on a personal level (some of his interviews and quotes are so smarmy and self-serving that he never comes off as anything less than a jerk), and I really don’t enjoy his films (cough he ruined X-Men for a while cough)….but I did find his latest film Tower Heist to be enjoyable. I hate myself! The movie is far from perfect, and really a watered down version of Ocean’s Eleven, but the ensemble cast and a script that’s far smarter than expected makes the film an overall enjoyable and light film worthy of a peruse.
The film follows a group of employees at the exclusive Tower apartments (aka Trump Tower). Building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) discovers that resident and multi-millionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) has run a Ponzi scheme that has depleted all the employees’ pensions and is set to get away with it. With the help of a few employees with nothing to lose, Josh and crew will try to get the money that they deserve and bring Shaw to justice.
Ratner and writers Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson may borrow heavily from Ocean’s Eleven for Tower Heist, but it works in the same way the former film did. The movie brings together a group of people with nothing to lose and has them take from the rich to give to the poor. The film’s connection to Occupy Wall Street is sharply prominent, especially considering the film’s location and references to companies like Merrill Lynch. Had the movie not come out when it did, the references would seem incredibly dated like in Horrible Bosses, but here it makes the film timely and the audience is more invested in hoping the group succeeds. The one-liners don’t fly fast and furious but when they do you enjoy them and some of them are just crazy like a hilarious exchange about movie titles where the punch line is about Boys Don’t Cry. It’s moments like this that emphasize the script and you’re taken aback by how funny it can be.
A lot of this is helped by the ensemble cast who all work well together. Stiller may sport a ridiculous Bronx accent but he’s a solid ringleader. Unfortunately he’s upstaged by the supporting cast, especially the scene-stealing Eddie Murphy as career criminal Slide. In fact it’s actually sad how little screen time Murphy gets, with the last 30 minutes involving him being mute. Murphy steals the show and easily could have held this movie on his back. If anything it proved Tower Heist should have gotten an R-rating because you expect Murphy to cut loose.
Other performances come out of left field. Matthew Broderick gives a dry and sarcastic performance as a former banker who’s set to lose his house. His line delivery is so sarcastic, he’s the Eeyore of the group and you’ll get a chuckle that you shouldn’t when he mentions things like “living in a box.” Alan Alda is a perfect jerk as the man who’s destroyed everyone’s lives and every word out of his mouth is just ruthless. Not only is the character relishing the hell he’s giving everyone, masked under a veil of nicety, but Alda is definitely enjoying playing such an ass.
If anything the film falters with a weak third act that goes on far too long and becomes laughably ridiculous. The payoff where the group discovers where the money’s hidden is stupid and the laws of physics are just tossed out the window. Also, a major plot point involves Josh willingly investing the employee’s money with Shaw, yet aside from one scene no one ever blames Josh. Sure sassy Jamaican maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) says something snide, but when the plans start to fall apart no one mentions Josh getting them in this mess. Murphy’s character gets dropped completely in the film’s final moments and the game of spy vs. spy with Slide trying to get the money for himself is also abandoned before the end. The film is going about 20 minutes too long by this point but it makes the ending feel rushed.
I didn’t want to enjoy Tower Heist or give Brett Ratner my money, but I did and came away satisfied. I doubt I’ll remember this movie by next week (aside from continuing my love of Casey Affleck), but it was a film I could sit back and turn my brain off which just needs to happen sometimes.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.