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‘Tower Heist’ almost makes it work

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tower Heist” is one of those “almost” movies. It’s almost a good movie that almost achieved what it was going for.

First of all, it’s difficult to define the genre: A satire? A comedy? A dramedy? Don’t be fooled by the Eddie Murphy billing. This is Ben Stiller’s film. But a rather serious Ben Stiller. Eddie Murphy comes into the picture far too late. Then, when he finally shows up, the missing-inaction- at-the-movies-for-far-too-long Eddie Murphy, the funniest guy in the room, spends much of his time standing around silently like chopped liver in this semi-ensemble flick.

Ben Stiller (consistently fabulous) plays Josh Kovacs, an upright, conscientious building manager of an upscale apartment in New York City — a whiz at his job and someone who has a heart for all the “little people,” the domestic staff. Arthur Shaw (a very effective heartless, soulless, icy-eyed Alan Alda) is a Bernie Madoff-type who lives in the building and is indicted for securities fraud — if only the FBI can prove it — that directly effects Josh and the building staff who trusted Shaw with their money and pensions. Eddie Murphy is Slide, a petty criminal who lives near Josh and whom Josh eventually enlists to help get his and his staff’s vanished money back.

The rest of the cast is truly star-studded: Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch and Tea Leoni, who gives a show-stealing performance as an unlikely FBI agent.

The story line hangs together well, albeit at a slow pace that never quite revs up. The tee-hees are sparsely spaced. In the end, the whole point of “Heist” seems to be a kind of revenge fantasy in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. The soundtrack is a monotonous super-cool, bassdriven loop.

Unfortunately, this PG-13 film is littered with frequent and graphic sex banter that really crosses the line for that rating.

“Tower Heist” is illustrative of the Gospel for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: “He who is faithful in little things will be faithful in greater,” both in a positive dimension (Josh Kovacs) and a negative dimension (Arthur Shaw).

The great lesson to be learned from “Heist” is that the underdog can fight back and win, but there will be a price to pay.