Class warfare is raging these days — especially in Hollywood. Income inequality and a distrust of the financial industry has been the subject of serious drama (“Margin Call”), sci-fi allegory (“In Time”) and now a caper comedy.
In “Tower Heist,” the center of attention is The Tower, a New York luxury apartment complex for the ultra-rich. Mr. Simon (Judd Hirsch) is in charge of the place but it’s Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) who really keeps things running smoothly. Among his employees are sassy Jamaican maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe); new elevator operator Enrique (Michael Peña); veteran doorman Lester (Stephen Henderson) and Josh’s brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck), who minds the front desk.
Among the Tower’s residents are Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a successful Wall Street investor, and Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), an unsuccessful one. While Shaw lives in the lap of luxury, Fitzhugh is about to be evicted.
But that could change for Shaw when Special Agent Claire Denham (Téa Leoni) shows up to arrest him on charges of financial fraud. Making matters worse, Josh asked Shaw to handle the Tower’s pension fund and now all his employees’ retirement money is gone.
When the beloved Lester tries to commit suicide, Josh — backed up by Enrique and Charlie — takes out his frustration on the classic car Shaw keeps on display in his penthouse. As a result, Josh, Charlie and Enrique are fired.
No one can find where Shaw has stashed his millions. Josh deduces it must be in a wall in the apartment and convinces Charlie, Enrique and Mr. Fitzhugh to help him break in and steal it. Since none of them have experience at larceny, Josh brings in Slide (Eddie Murphy), a thug from his neighborhood that he’s known since childhood.
Director Brett Ratner — no stranger to comic-action films thanks to the “Rush Hour” movies — delivers a decent, mostly predictable mainstream comedy with “Tower Heist.” It’s refreshing these days to see a comedy that doesn’t rely heavily on crude language, cruder situations and fart jokes.
It’s also refreshing to see Eddie Murphy being funny again. It’s been a long time since the Golden Age of Eddie Murphy comedies (“48 Hours,” “Trading Places,” “Beverly Hills Cop”) but Murphy has recaptured some of that magic with this performance.
“Tower Heist” isn’t a great comedy and the story gets more and more ridiculous as it goes along, but it has a likable cast and some good laughs and one thrilling, vertigo-inducing moment.
Did it work for me? Not an enthusiastic thumbs up, but a thumbs up nonetheless. If you’re looking for a lightweight comedy and a return to form for Eddie Murphy, it’s worth checking in to “Tower Heist.”