Tower Heist

{Tower Heist opened in Seattle on Friday, November 4 and is playing at the Metro, The Meridian, The Majestic Bay, and Thornton Place Theaters}

There are a lot of reasons to suspect Tower Heist may be the latest overly engineered star-vehicle that seriously screws up a beloved beloved genre for a new generation of fans. There are occasional moments of excessive seriousness (all involving Ben Stiller). Plus a few spots where things threaten to stall. But in the end, it's an entertaining romp that's worth a look. I know – I couldn't believe it either. Almost makes me want to go double or nothing next week with the new Adam Sandler flick. Hey, I said almost….

Tower Heights certainly has some laughs, but overall I felt it owed more to the heist genre than that of slapstick comedy. An allegiance the film declares from the start with soothingly familiar "we're up to no good music". Trust me – you'll know it when you hear it. It's definitely a positive sign. You can think of it as one of the Ocean's 11 films – perhaps with less attractive people. With Casey Affleck in the mix to force the comparison.

Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) is the service manager of a swank Manhattan condo building refered to as The Tower. The sort of place where the low end apartments are still in the millions and the staff is attentive enough to remind you to sneak your high end call-girl out the back when the wife returns early. Without you having to ask. Stiller is the amazing ringleader of this crew keeping things humming while still being beloved by everyone. At the top of the building's pyramid is Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) the penthouse resident asshole. Which we're not so subtly reminded of from the opening moments when he emerges from his rooftop swimming pool with a hundred dollar mural on the bottom. As it turns out, Alda is one of them wall street creeps who does something very unpleasant and likely equally illegal to Stiller and his work family. Resulting in Stiller organizing a break-in to Alda's penthouse apartment in the name of financial justice.

Stiller's unlikely crew includes his brother in law (Casey Affleck), a homeless former tenant of The Tower (a puffy Mr Gadget Mathew Broderick), the building's elevator operator and online Devry graduate Enrique (Michael Pena), and Slide (Eddie Murphy). Murphy is selected for his purported skills as a thief, or more accurately the only criminal type Stiller knows. Rounding out the cast of characters are a broad range of well delivered but pretty stereotyped NYC hotel staff roles. Got to admit its great to see Gabourey Sidibe of Precious renown onscreen. For her fans, there's also a bit of Tea Leoni as hard- drinking, Queens native FBI agent. All in all everyone seems well cast and delivers what they need to move the film along.

Most notably, it's nice to see the old. "I'm gonna whoop yo ass" Murphy back, albeit restrained by the PG-13 format. Even if his role is smaller than the trailer would have you believe. I'm normally quick to point out how annoying Ben Stiller can be. While he doesn't fully escape the well of my personal prejudices Stiller is a good match for the role. Not a perfect human being he's believable as a nice guy pushed too far. To the extent that any part of the movie is believable. Plausibility is not really what Tower Heist is going for.  Accepting that the mix of humor and self interested Robin Hood hijinks worked for me. The film drags a bit at times around the mid-section. It may also spend more time than required in setting up the bad guy. Not to mention the carefully arrayed arsenal of Chekov's guns dragged out in the final act. 

These are minor quibbles as for most of picture I was enjoying either the camaraderie of the actors or the heist sequence. The last segment generates flashes of peril (and occasional vertigo) that I didn't at all expect. As improbably ended as many such flicks Tower Heist was still pretty satisfying. All in all I think it's worth checking out if you want something light with a slight fuck the system flavor (which seems in the spirit of the times).

The only question I have about the film is what Roman Polanski contributed to earn a thanks in the end credits…anyone?