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High-rise hilarity with ‘Tower Heist’

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Action comedy pairs heists and hijinks

Sometimes, there’s nothing quite like a good heist movie. The intrigue, the elaborate plans, the witty repartee - it all adds up to an enjoyable moviegoing experience. Honestly, even when a heist movie is kind of bad, it’s still pretty good.

Thus bringing us to “Tower Heist,” the latest from director Brett Ratner.

It’s the story of Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller, “Greenberg”), the manager of a luxury high-rise hotel known only as The Tower. The Tower is a bastion of high-tech wizardry and top-of-the-line service, with its employees devoted to the comfort of its residents. Residing in the penthouse is Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda, “Nothing But the Truth”), a financial wizard acknowledged as one of the richest men in the world.

However, it turns out that Shaw’s financial acumen is nothing more than smoke and mirrors - he has defrauded his clients to the tune of many millions of dollars. Those clients include The Tower’s pension fund, which Shaw agreed to manage as a favor to Josh. When the money disappears, Josh crosses a line with Shaw and gets fired. Josh is bound and determined to get that money back, so he comes up with a plan.

Enter the “Heist” part of the equation.

Josh recruits a motley crew, including his brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck, “Gone Baby Gone”) and recently-evicted Tower tenant Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick, “Margaret”). He also involves his neighbor Slide (Eddie Murphy, “Imagine That”), a petty thief who is going to “teach” the rest of them how to steal.

Hilarity ensues.

There’s a lot of potential in an action comedy and director Ratner has a list of credits that show he knows how to do it right (heck, they made three “Rush Hour” movies). He keeps things moving along at a brisk pace and is unafraid to use scads of computer-generated excitement just to elicit a few chuckles.

Still, without a charismatic cast, this film would be dead in the water. Stiller anchors the movie wonderfully, managing to iron out most of his neurotic wrinkles in his portrayal of Josh. Affleck is good as the affable screw-up and it’s always nice to see Matthew Broderick on the big screen. Alda is great, too; his Shaw is charming even when he’s being kind of an evil d-bag.

And Lord help us, Eddie Murphy’s back. It’s not quite vintage Eddie, but it’s a heck of a lot closer than we’ve seen from him in ages. We see glimpses of the comedic force he used to be before settling into a life of kids’ movies and fat voice-over checks. He’s not the same guy - he’s older and (maybe?) wiser - but even just those few moments were worth the price of admission for me, a reminder of when comic giants walked the earth.

Sure, there are flaws here. The story meanders in some places. In others, it strains the credulity of the audience - I don’t need pure verisimilitude in my caper flicks, but throw me a bone. Still, the cast is great, there are some very funny moments, and the heist - while a bit late in arriving - is worth the weight.

“Tower Heist” is a relative rarity these days. It’s a film that is no better or worse than the trailers have indicated. So if you saw the trailer and liked what you saw, give “Tower Heist” a go.

4 out of 5

Last modified on Thursday, 05 January 2012 12:04

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