Tower Heist
dir Brett Ratner
scr Ted Griffin, Jeff Nathanson
prd Brian Grazer, Eddie Murphy
with Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Peña, Alan Alda, Nina Arianda, Judd Hirsch, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Juan Carlos Hernandez
release UK 2.Nov.11, US 4.Nov.11
11/US Universal 1h44
Tower Heist
Motley crew: Stiller, Broderick, Peña, Affleck and Murphy

leoni sidibe alda
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Tower Heist With a high concept and a lazy script, there isn't much to this caper comedy at all. But it does have a few solid laughs scattered here and there, mostly in random one-liners that make up for the lacklustre plotting and strained slapstick.

After billionaire Arthur Shaw (Alda) is sent to prison for fraud, the manager of his insanely posh Manhattan apartment building, Josh (Stiller), is furious that his staff's pensions have been lost. So he teams up with his employees (concierge Affleck, chef Sidibe and lift operator Peña), a disgruntled ex-tenant (Broderick) and a local crook (Murphy) to steal back what they're owed. But they have to be careful, because an FBI agent (Leoni) is poking around Arthur's penthouse. And then there's the question of where all of those stolen millions are hidden.

The film has a lively, snappy tone that's never quite as funny as it thinks it is. While there are some hilarious verbal gags along the way, most of the script features lazy expository dialog, half-baked relationships and corny characterisation. Honestly, they couldn't even be bothered to name the tower, let alone the film. Despite this strong cast, there isn't a single memorable character. And Leoni is possibly the only one who emerges at the end with any dignity, simply because she doesn't join in on everyone else's desperate attempts to be amusing.

And the sloppiness doesn't end there. The only two black characters in the film are, of course, criminal masterminds. An innuendo-filled romantic subplot never gets off the ground, as it were. The most colourful thing about the slapsticky heist is that it takes place during New York's over-the-top Thanksgiving Day Parade, even though it's only used to cause traffic problems. And the huge caper itself is so implausible that it makes a Road Runner cartoon look grounded in the laws of physics.

But then, this is essentially a Road Runner-style cartoonish romp, and it's clearly not meant to be taken seriously on any level. At least the actors find ways to inject some genuinely funny moments into Ratner's oddly strained and clunky direction. But you never quite get over the sense that this was originally a rejected script for Ocean's Fourteen.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 12.Oct.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall