Alert to the righteous rage of the 99-percenters and canny about how to mine it for laughs, Tower Heist is like Ocean's Eleven meets class consciousness. Ben Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, the manager of a luxury condo building in Manhattan called the Tower. He commands a small army of housekeepers, concierges, doormen and security guards who cater to every whim of their pampered residents. Josh is a people pleaser, and Stiller imbues the character with decency and knuckle-down determination.
The determination comes in handy when the Tower's penthouse-dwelling big-shot investor Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is taken into federal custody for some funny business with the books. Josh had entrusted Shaw with handling his staff's pension plans - gone, all of it, in a Madoff-like torching - and now the building manager wants revenge. Going rogue, Josh gathers a motley crew - including Eddie Murphy's ex-con Slide - to filch the $20 million safety net Shaw has hidden in his penthouse.
A glib director, Brett Ratner is nonetheless a professional. He's made a lean and likable action-comedy that motors along at a satisfying clip. True, Tower Heist isn't interested much in the interior lives of its characters, or even their exterior lives. Josh's Astoria apartment looks airbrushed out of a Pottery Barn catalogue, which doesn't at all jibe with what we know of him.
Still, Ratner has an eye for casting. From the top down, it's a terrific assemblage of actors: There's Murphy, mouth moving faster than the speed of light; Gabourey Sidibe as a take-no-prisoners Jamaican housemaid; Matthew Broderick, gallows-grim as a ruined Wall Streeter. They nail the humor, all right, but they also, quite crucially, humanize the high concept.