Tower Heist
February 20, 2012

I’m not a huge fan of heist movies — I blush to admit that I still haven’t seen the Ocean’s 11 remake or its sequels — but the cast of this one was so interesting that I had to check it out. Ben Stiller stars as the head concierge of a very fancy apartment building. Judd Hirsch is his boss, and Alan Alda an extremely rich tenant. Matthew Broderick is a bankrupt former broker who refuses to leave because he’s got nothing left.

Alda’s Madoff-like character winds up losing a lot of people’s money, including the employees’ retirement fund, in a particularly timely plot. Those affected decide to steal back their pensions, and Eddie Murphy is the experienced thief they get help from. Gabourey Sidibe is a loud-mouthed housekeeper, while Téa Leoni is the FBI agent in charge of Alda’s house arrest.

Alan Alda and Tea Leoni in Tower Heist

Alan Alda and Tea Leoni in Tower Heist

I liked the city setting. This was filmed in New York City, and it shows, with a very authentic rich-guy urban feel. The tone, however, is all over the place, from comedy to action to drama. It also takes a long while to get to the plot — even though we know that a robbery is coming, the plan doesn’t even start until after a half-hour into the hour-and-45-minute film. I might have preferred a flashback setup, where we start with the action and then follow the stars back to see how they came to be part of the heist. I would have also preferred more of a showdown between the evil rich guy and the Robin Hood gang. Much of what they do winds up happening, as it must, with Alda’s character gone. I would have liked to have seen more of his character’s unthinking entitlement, to emphasize the social commentary aspects, which don’t get as much attention as I wanted.

The best part of the movie, I thought, was the camaraderie among the down-on-their-luck guys, as seen in this clip from the bonus features, which also includes some of the best lines:

Their interaction accounts for much of the humor, as Murphy tries to toughen up these previously pampered pals. Murphy’s work is reminiscent of his best-known wiseass roles, while Broderick is surprisingly funny, and so is Sidibe. It’s an enjoyable diversion for a weekend, especially if you have good tolerance for a flatly unbelievable conclusion that makes for great visuals and suspense — including a car chase *through* the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — but ignores the laws of physics and relies on a lot of coincidence.

(My first exposure to Tower Heist was not as a film, but as an experiment. Universal originally intended to try releasing it as video-on-demand only three weeks after it opened in theaters, and only in two Comcast cities. Theater owners, however, refused to show the movie if their release window wasn’t kept to its traditional length, so the experiment was cancelled. The film flopped anyway, making back only its filming budget in the U.S.)

Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Murphy in Tower Heist

Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Murphy in Tower Heist

Special Features

The carrot to induce those interested to buy are the many special features available on both the DVD edition and Blu-ray. Two “alternate endings” (less than three minutes total) could more accurately be described as postscripts to the action in the film, although it was fun to see the cast again. Nine deleted/alternate scenes (likely removed to keep the rating PG-13) provide additional bits of humor. A gag reel (just over four minutes) shows the usual bloopers and cast cracking up.

The 45-minute featurette, in six parts, is “Plotting Tower Heist” with producer Brian Grazer, director Brett Ratner, and the cast, covering the complicated history of the movie, with its various writers and concept history, as well as the Trump Tower location inspiration, the key sets, and more information on the Steve McQueen car that’s so significant to the plot. There’s also a commentary with Ratner, editor Mark Helfrich, and co-writers Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson.

Car from Tower Heist

Alda's character is so rich he has a collectible car in his living room

Blu-ray exclusives include Ratner’s video diary (almost 23 minutes of home movie-style memories); pocketBLU access; and, with a WiFi-connected player, Second Screen (using a laptop or tablet app) that includes storyboards and “The Music of Tower Heist”, information on the soundtrack. These items are also available on the Blu-ray disc through “U-Control”. The combo pack comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film (access only available through the end of July). (The studio provided a review copy.)

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Dark Tide Opens in VOD Before Theaters » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[…] afraid to try: selling direct to customers as video-on-demand before opening in theaters. (When Tower Heist was proposed to debut this way, the outcry reversed the studio’s […]


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