© 2011 Universal Pictures

Tower Heist (2011)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I actually enjoyed Tower Heist. I have never understood why Ben Stiller is considered a film star, and I think Eddie Murphy ceased to be funny decades ago.

My sole motivation to see big-budget Oceans parody was the promise of Alan Alda playing a Bernie Madoff-inspired Ponzi scheme billionaire. Alda broke with his archetypal  sensitive ’70s guy image with a small part in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, playing a full-of-himself millionaire TV producer, and played the antagonistic senator hounding Howard Hughes in the Aviator. I was expecting to enjoy the few moments when Alda was on the screen, and  cringe for the rest of the running time when Stiller and Murphy were paired up.

A heist film is supposed to be all about plot, but the plot here—about the staff of a luxury residential tower stealing back their swindled pensions from the Alda character—is very formulaic. And it is not even a very good formula, as there are subplots that are developed then dropped, and characters who are introduced and then just forgotten about. But what you can enjoy are the supporting actors, and with so many characters, you don’t have to wait long for a new one to pop up. It was nice to see Matthew Broderick, now pushing 50, returning to comedy as a bankrupt trader, Gabourey Sidibe is a highlight as a Jamaican-born maid and safe cracker, makes the role memorable even though it is not developed much in the script. One of the funniest characters is a Russian clerk studying for her bar exam on the side. I’d seen, but not remembered, Nina Arianda in a tiny part in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and she evidently she has mostly worked on Broadway, playing the Judy Holliday character in a production of Born Yesterday, which must have been perfect for her type of comedy. Her first film credit only dates to 2011, and she is only in this film for a few minutes, but I certainly hope she gets to play some bigger roles on screen soon.

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