It’s always a pleasant surprise to go into a film with one set of expectations and come out surprised at the result. Tower Heist looked as though it was a desperate attempt to bring together some comedic actors for a few laughs, and let’s face it, to find the last good movies that either Ben Stiller or Eddie Murphy have been in, you’d have to go back a few years. However, Tower Heist provides just this kind of surprise as it delivers not only on the humor, but also with its interesting plot.
Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) is the General Manager of a luxurious apartment building called “The Tower.” He is in charge of running the entire staff who are responsible for attending to every little need their tenants might have. One of these tenants is Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), who resides in the penthouse. One day, in what Josh thinks is a kidnapping, Shaw attempts to flee from his apartment, but is picked up by the FBI on suspicion of conducting a ponzi scheme in which he took money from several people, including the staff of The Tower, and promised to invest it.
This news devastates the entire staff, including Lester (Stephen Henderson), who attempts to commit suicide because he has lost all of his savings. This heightens Josh’s aggravation towards Shaw, causing him to damage a prized possession of his, which leads to his and two other employee’s dismissals from their positions. When Josh is informed by an FBI agent, Claire Denham (Tea Leoni), that Shaw’s safety net (aka back-up money) has not been found, he launches a plan with his some of his colleagues to rob Shaw’s penthouse where he believes the money is hidden.
The best feature of Tower Heist ends up being its good sense of humor. It doesn’t deal too much with lewd or lowbrow jokes, but rather works with one-liners and situational comedy. The second half in particular, where the heist takes place, seems to continually build on humorous and downright implausible events that continually up the stakes as it proceeds. There were several parts in this second half that had me glued to the screen wondering what could possibly happen next.
To pull off this heist film, a wonderful ensemble cast was assembled including Ben Stiller, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Eddie Murphy, Judd Hirsch, Tea Leoni, Casey Affleck, and Gabourey Sidibe. As mentioned earlier, you’d have to go back several years to see the last good live-action film Stiller was in, same with Murphy, whose venture into kids’ films like Meet Dave and Imagine That has kept him from starring in anything decent lately. However, I’m glad to report that he is back in form and earns several good laughs here. It’s also good to see Alda back on the big screen after not having done anything all that big for the last few years.
The one shortcoming of Tower Heist that was present throughout the first half was that it felt like it was stretched out too long. It seemed like it took quite a while to set up the situation where Shaw is arrested to Josh’s firing to planning the heist to its eventual execution. Luckily, there are plenty of laughs thrown in to keep the pacing at an acceptable level, and once that second half hits, you’ll more than likely be engaged in the ludicrous, yet intriguing heist.
The film comes from director Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand, Rush Hour), who has been hit and miss with films he’s chosen to direct. The screenplay was written by Ted Griffin, who also wrote the excellent remake of Ocean’s Eleven, and Jeff Nathanson, whose filmography includes the wonderful con film Catch Me If You Can. It’s clear to see why these two would be chosen for this film what with their great experience in the genre.
What we end up with is a film that will have you laughing all the way through while at the same time reminding you that some talent never goes away, it just hibernates in smaller or inferior movies for awhile before that right project reaches them. Tower Heist has pulled together a wonderful cast that truly gets to shine with the material. For those who were just as skeptical, you just might find yourself equally surprised.
The picture quality on the blu-ray is excellent. It is presented in a beautiful 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is very sharp. The audio is likewise sharp and clear, allowing for everything from dialogue to the score to come off clean and easy to hear.
One thing that has been concerning me about blu-rays lately is the lack of special features that come with them. Usually you’re lucky to get a trailer and maybe a commentary. However, Tower Heist has reignited my hopes that some filmmakers actually care about the processes behind making the film as this blu-ray includes multiple special features covering several aspects of the production.
Here’s a list of the goodies:
- 2 Alternate Endings
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Tower Heist Video Diary
- Plotting Tower Heist
- Feature Commentary with Director Brett Ratner, Editor Mark Helfrich and Co-Writers Ted Griffin & Jeff Nathanson
While the alternate endings and deleted scenes aren’t that much to look at, it’s still interesting to see what little bits didn’t make it into the film. What’s really worth taking a look at are the video diary and the “Plotting Tower Heist” featurettes. The video diary is a fascinating look behind the scenes during filming starting with the first day of shooting and going right up through the world premiere of the film. I found it quite interesting to watch everyone working on the project and to see how much fun they were having while making it.
The bulk of the special features are the “Plotting Tower Heist” featurettes that includes interviews with Director Brett Ratner, Producer Brian Grazer, Co-Writers Ted Griffin & Jeff Nathanson, the entire cast, special effects people, and even the composer of the score. This is something that should be standard on all blu-rays as it’s quite fascinating to listen to the people who spent months and even years of their lives making this film.
They discuss how the film came to be and all of the technical aspects of the complicated special effects shots they had to do, which makes them even more impressive given how real it all looks in the finished film. The different featurettes also go through the different set pieces that the filmmakers had to use such as a recreation of a luxurious hotel lobby and the penthouse apartment. They even cover how a car used by Steve McQueen was recreated for the film.
It’s great to see a powerhouse cast like this coming together with some really good material and showing just how funny they can be, especially when it doesn’t happen all that often anymore for people like Stiller or Murphy. Tower Heist is indeed a very funny film and discovering the wealth of special features included on the Blu-Ray makes it even more worth picking up.
Tower Heist delivers not only on the humor, but also with its interesting plot and a wonderful performance from Eddie Murphy.