Tower Heist was a movie with a lot of potential, but it didn't quite get there.
Bernie Madoff-esque businessman Arthur Shaw is charged with defrauding people of billions of dollars, including the people who work in his apartment building. When he shows absolutely no remorse, the workers, lead by General Manager Josh decide to do something about it. They know that somewhere in his massive apartment, Shaw has hidden millions of dollars and they're determined to find it. The problem is, Shaw is under 24-hour security with the FBI at his door and hidden cameras inside. So Josh hires out a criminal named Slide who lives in his neighborhood to try and come up with a plan to break into the apartment and get the money. But what they find is that breaking in is the easy part - it's getting out that's going to be a big problem.
Tower Heist had all the right elements. A group of well-known stars led by two comedy giants in Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. A topical story. And a heist. So everything was right there, except the movie never really came together correctly. It took a long time for the movie to get started - we spend a good 30-40 minutes introducing the characters and setting up the plot. It's only when Stiller bails Murphy out of jail that the movie starts to take off, and a lot of that can be attributed to Murphy himself. He's back in the wheelhouse of his tremendous 80s films where he's the fast-talking criminal/cop/whatever who ad-libs his way to hysterical lines. I think my favorite scene in the movie is when he, Stiller, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena are all in Stiller's apartment going over the plan and the conversation turns to lesbians. While some of it was definitely scripted I have to believe everything Murphy said was off the top of his head. And I wish more of the movie was like that. I don't know if it's because Eddie didn't want a bigger role or what, but he wasn't even in half the film. The movie centered completely around Stiller's character, and while that made sense, this is the kind of movie that could have really succeeded by letting Eddie loose. Stiller played the straight man so he didn't have a lot of manic humor like he sometimes does. Broderick got off a few good lines. And everyone else had moments but it all could have been so much better with more Murphy. There, that's the last time I'll say that. I think.
The story was genuinely interesting and probably something a lot of people wish they could do. But it was also seriously over-the-top. When the guys of Ocean's 11 put together a heist, I actually believed they could pull it off. Whether it was the set-up or their swagger or what, I don't know. But whatever they said they wanted to do, I thought they could do it. With the crew of Tower Heist I didn't for a second believe they could pull off a job like this. Nothing in their character history showed me anything. And it was completely crazy. They had to break into the most secure apartment building in the city, beat cameras, FBI and cops out on the street during a Thanksgiving Day parade. They had to somehow trick lawyers and the FBI into thinking a court date was changed. And then, big spoiler alert here, when they realize that there is no cash but that the money Shaw had hidden was in fact his car (made out of gold) they had to somehow get a car out of the building. And how they do it was completely, 100% ridiculous, both in the way they do it and because it's them that's doing it. Are movies like this supposed to be 100% believable? Absolutely not. But this wasn't some kind of fantasy film, it's supposed to be a bunch of wronged people trying to make a situation right. And the movie at no point led me to believe that they could actually do it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall I thought Tower Heist was OK. I liked the concept, but it never quite gelled. More Eddie Murphy would have definitely helped.