Tower Heist tries to be a jack of all trades by being a comedy and heist movie rolled into one, but it turns out that it’s actually a master of none. It’s a slow, laborious and decidedly unfunny affair in which all the best jokes are in the trailer – Ocean’s Eleven, which is primarily a heist movie, made me laugh more than this. Indeed, the greatest crime a comedy can commit is being unfunny and, sadly, Tower Heist is guilty as charged. Moreover, Tower Heist also commits the greatest crime a caper can commit: being predictable. It’s a lose-lose situation.
And if you’re thinking of watching it in the hope that it’s Eddy Murphy’s triumphant return after suffering through the likes of Meet Dave and Norbit and other atrocious family films then think again. Murphy is a severely underutilised asset and doesn’t become a big part of the story until close to the halfway mark. It’s a shame, especially since Murphy’s fast-talking, rapid-fire delivery does remind us of why he became a household name in the first place. Regardless, you’re probably better off waiting for a home release and watching one of Murphy’s classics from the 1980s instead of seeing Tower Heist in cinemas.
The plot follows Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) who is the building manager of The Tower, a high-rise of luxury apartments in New York. Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), one of the wealthiest men alive, lives out of the top floor penthouse and is Kovacs’ most important tenant. Trusting Shaw, Kovacs asks him to manage his and other employees’ pensions but Shaw defrauds them and takes their money.
Kovacs teams up with other disgruntled employees and Murphy’s Slide, a petty thief, to find and rob Shaw’s safety net of $20 million, which they think is hidden somewhere in his apartment. But it won’t be easy because The Tower has a highly advanced security system and Shaw is under house arrest, which means that there’s an FBI presence to contend with.
As a heist movie it fails, being neither faintly plausible nor remotely believable. There’s no plan to follow despite all the planning that seems to go on. I always enjoy working out the mechanics of a heist, from preparation to execution but there’s no such joy to be had here. Not even a solid supporting cast featuring Casey Affleck as a deadpan concierge and Matthew Broderick as an underplayed investor who went bankrupt can save the film from its slow pace and meandering tone.
It’s not bad, just oh so disappointing. Director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) doesn’t do anything but get the job the done. It’s commercial, safe and good enough to be mildly enjoyable but, in retrospect, good enough is rarely, actually, good enough. With a speedier opening and much more Murphy Tower Heist could have been a real winner, as it is it’s only ok – just don’t expect a laugh-out-loud comedy or thrilling heist caper, rather a middling, boring case of confused identity.