If the Occupy Wall Street crowd decided to make it movie it would be “Tower Heist,” the story of 99%-ers stealing back from a 1% guy what he stole from them.
Alan Alda has a lot of fun playing a bad guy for a change, a Madoff-style villain named Arthur Shaw who takes a daily swim in his rooftop pool with an enormous painting of a hundred dollar bill along the bottom. He lives in the penthouse of a luxury building in New York with an attentive staff under the perfectionist eye of building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller). The employees entrusted him with their pension money and when he is arrested for securities fraud they realize that the money they saved and counted on for retirement has disappeared. Luther, the doorman (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is so disconsolate he attempts suicide. And Josh is so frustrated and furious that he plots a heist to steal some of their money back, with the help of a lowlife neighbor named Slide (Eddie Murphy, who co-produced). Josh has spent years protecting Shaw and the other wealthy residents of the building by creating an unbreakable security system. And he has spent years losing to Shaw in their online chess game. Will he be able to take Shaw’s king?
Co-scripter Ted Griffin wrote “Oceans 11” so he knows that heist films depend on three things: (1) We have to be on the side of the thieves and it helps to have them steal from an arrogant bad guy. Check. (2) It has to be a challenge with some enormous logistical obstacles to outsmart. Check. And (3) there have to be some unexpected problems for our anti-heroes to solve as the caper is underway. Check again.
It is a pleasure to see Eddie Murphy, who co-produced, funny again in a live action film, playing a character who might be an older, less smooth relative of his “48 Hours” Reggie Hammond. Instead of trying to play all the parts himself, he blends into a top-notch ensemble cast that includes Téa Leoni as an FBI agent, Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious” as a maid who is handy with locks, an abashed Matthew Broderick as a failed Wall Streeter evicted from the building, and Michael Peña and Casey Affleck as accomplices. We could use a lot more Leoni (any movie could use more Leoni) and the conclusion feels awkwardly tacked on, but it is timely and fun.
Parents should know that this movie includes some strong and frequent crude language including sexual references and prostitution jokes. The plot concerns theft including Madoff-style crook and there is some comic peril. A character attempts suicide.
Family discussion: Is it fair to steal from a thief? What will happen to Josh? What made Charlie change his mind?
If you like this, try: “The Italian Job” and “Who’s Minding the Mint?”