Review: Tower Heist (12A) ***

Ben Stiller clearly has several personal projects on his slate, and this men-on-a-mission caper comedy is one of them.

Naturally Stiller takes the lead as the manager of a millionaires’ high-rise in New York who, faced with the knowledge that rich, corrupt banker Alan Alda has ripped off the building’s blue-collar staff and squandered their pensions, decides to seek payback.

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This he does by putting together a motley band led by Eddie Murphy, a fast-talkin’ career criminal. Together they will relieve Alda of a fortune secreted inside the luxurious penthouse he calls home. Stiller, Murphy and Alda are joined in this merry escapade by Matthew Broderick and Téa Leoni. He plays a financial wizard about to be evicted from his apartment; she is the agent on their trail.

Tower Heist is a painting-by-numbers job, that said it manages a fistful of laughs, provides some innovative comedy-drama (such as the theft of a car once owned by Steve McQueen) and gives Murphy the kind of role he can play in his sleep.

In fact, this rapidly becomes Murphy’s film. As the jive-talkin’, gun-totin’, wise-crackin’ street tough he brings the necessary energy to the piece. In its clumsy way Tower Heist has a resonance with the growing cacophony over greedy bankers. It’s that age-old tale of the worm(s) that turned, the story of Them and Us. Brett (Rush Hour) Ratner is adept at this kind of ensemble comedy and gives the age-defying Murphy his best opportunities since his career was subsumed beneath the donkey droppings of the Shrek franchise.