Stiller and Murphy elicit laughs in ‘Tower Heist’

Nov. 14, 2011

April Wefler
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3 out of 5 stars

When your friend invests all of his lifesavings in a wealthy businessman who takes the money for himself and then is placed under house arrest by the FBI, you rob him. At least, that’s what Josh Kovacs decides.

Kovacs (Ben Stiller) enjoys his job in New York City’s prime real estate, The Tower. He’s a friend with a wealthy businessman, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda).

When Shaw is placed under house arrest for fraud, Kovacs first believes that Shaw is innocent. It’s only when he accepts that Shaw is guilty that the real story begins.

The movie is riddled with laughs. After Kovacs is fired for smashing Shaw’s car, he plots revenge against Shaw. Kovacs seeks the help of Slide (Eddie Murphy), a crook who grew up with Kovacs and only remembers him as the kid with the seizures, which as Kovacs points out, was just asthma.

Later in the movie, the audience learns that Slide only steals satellite dishes so he won’t get charged with breaking and entering.

At one point in “Tower Heist,” Slide refuses to help in the robbery unless the people involved prove themselves capable of committing crime.

He sets Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), Enrique Dev’Reaux (Michael Peña), Charlie (Casey Affleck) and Kovacs out in the mall and tells them to steal $50 worth of anything.

Later, when the men tell Slide that he needs to prove himself as well, he tells them that he just stole more than $200 from their wallets and you should never give your wallet to a crook.

“Tower Heist” is this decade’s more hilarious “Ocean’s Eleven,” although not nearly as complex and nowhere near as brilliant. In fact, “Tower Heist” was originally being developed as the black “Ocean’s Eleven.”

Just as in “Ocean’s Eleven,” the plan is risky. Kovacs wants to break open Shaw’s safe and find Shaw’s hidden money. This proves to be difficult, as an FBI agent guards Shaw’s penthouse and The Tower has the best security in the world.

The plan is even more difficult to execute because Shaw’s safe is so complex that not even Slide can break it. But one Tower employee, Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious”), can.

To complicate matters, the group has the timespan of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to pull off the heist and Kovacs becomes involved with FBI agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni).

“Tower Heist” is good but could be better. Although it’s great for laughs, there isn’t much depth to the movie. Still, there are some nail-biting scenes, like when you’re starting to think that the group will get caught.

On the plus side, the movie isn’t as predictable as you would expect, especially in the ending. If you want something funny, this movie is for you. If you want a more complex heist, watch “Ocean’s Eleven.” Either one provides a nice study break.