The so-so “Tower Heist” is a caper comedy for our times. Employees of a fancy Manhattan high-rise plot to steal back the pension money stolen by its penthouse-occupying Bernie Madoff-style fat cat.
Building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) heads up a posse, including the concierge (Casey Affleck), doorman (Stephen McKinley Henderson), bellhop (Michael Peña), bankrupt trader resident (Matthew Broderick), and Jamaican maid (“Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe). Alan Alda plays the billionaire, and his oleaginous smarm is so good that you almost wish Alda were starring in a hard-edged movie about Madoff instead of this goofy heist picture that takes way too long getting to the heist.
Director and co-writer Brett Ratner also takes an unconscionably long time bringing costar Eddie Murphy, playing a two-bit crook named Slide, into the fold. Murphy is occasionally at his loudmouth best here; the film could have used a lot more of his street-smart braying. (Reportedly he originally initiated the project as an all-black “Ocean’s Eleven” before it got turned around.)
Ratner stages some effective vertigo-inducing scenes atop the high rise, but the best sequence is the simplest: Slide demands that each of the potential crooks demonstrate their toughness by stealing an item worth at least $50 from the local mall. If this film turns out to be a big success, malls everywhere may want to hire more security. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.)