Review: Tower Heist

(M) ***

Director: Brett Ratner.

Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Téa Leoni, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe.

POP quiz: when was the last time Eddie Murphy was in a good, non-animated movie? What about Ben Stiller? Téa Leoni? Matthew Broderick?

Now you can answer all those questions with two words: Tower Heist.

It's not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a solid, comedic, and timely crime caper that lets Murphy do something no film has let him do for a long time - be a funny, bad-ass motor-mouth. Why no one has thought to do this outside a Shrek film, I'll never know.

Tower Heist also doesn't rely on Stiller for the laughs (because that never works). The workload is spread well among its ensemble cast, making it a mini, less-clever Ocean's-esque adventure.

Stiller is Josh Kovacs, the building manager of The Tower - a high-rise apartment building that houses New York's most expensive addresses and the staff wait on their beck and call.

In the penthouse is Arthur Shaw (Alda), a high-flying Wall Street trader who has kindly agreed to invest the superannuation of The Tower's staff.

But when the FBI comes knocking for Shaw for securities fraud and the money is gone, Kovacs decides to steal it back by breaking into Shaw's apartment - with a little help from his equally inept friends. It's the Occupy Movement ethos via a comedy crime caper.

Ratner, who hasn't made a movie since he crapped out lame threequels for Rush Hour and X-Men, delivers an efficient film that may be flawed but moves swiftly and effectively to ensure you won't spot the plotholes until the movie's over.

Perhaps even more surprising than the fact Ratner has delivered a good film is that it's got heart. The plot of a Wall Street hot shot ripping off the little guys and the spin-off effects is ripe for the picking and the way it's played helps ground proceedings as they becomes more and more ludicrous.

But this is all about the laughs, which aren't gutbusting but they're there. Murphy and a wonderfully deadpan Affleck are on song, with Pena and Sidibe chipping in. Also worth mentioning is Alda, who seems to relish his borderline role - is he really a villain or just a victim of circumstance?

Funny and fun enough to gloss over its shortcomings, Tower Heist is decent holiday filler.

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