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Originally published November 3, 2011 at 7:50 AM | Page modified November 3, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Movie review

'Tower Heist' a diverting riff on 'Ocean's Eleven'

"Tower Heist," the new thriller directed by Brett Ratner and starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick and many others, is an agreeable diversion, but basically warmed-over "Ocean's Eleven." The film is playing at several theaters in Seattle.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Tower Heist,' with Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, Judd Hirsch, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe. Directed by Brett Ratner, from a screenplay by Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. Several theaters.

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MOVIE REVIEW 3 stars

A sort of "Ocean's Eleven" for the recession era, Brett Ratner's "Tower Heist" is an agreeable diversion involving a troupe of likable actors, a large sum of money that goes AWOL and a very shiny red sports car. That car is parked in the penthouse living room of Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), and no, it's not there to save money on garage fees. Shaw is absurdly rich (how rich is he? That car once belonged to Steve McQueen, and it's in a penthouse), but he has a regular-guy, Alan Alda-ish quality to him. So it's surprising when the manager of Shaw's luxurious apartment building, Josh Kovaks (Ben Stiller), learns, along with the rest of the staff, that Shaw's been arrested for embezzlement — and that the staff's pension fund is among the money he stole.

And then — well, substitute Stiller for George Clooney and Eddie Murphy for Brad Pitt, swap Manhattan for Las Vegas, and make the gang not professional thieves but regular working stiffs (with one exception), and it's basically "Ocean's Eleven" all over again, with the pension money as the jackpot. (No surprise: Ted Griffin, who wrote the Steven Soderbergh remake of "Ocean's Eleven," is the screenwriter, along with Jeff Nathanson.) Josh assembles a team from the building staffers, finding various unexpected specialties (who knew that Odessa the maid, played cheerily by Gabourey Sidibe, was the daughter of a locksmith?). And he's got one ringer: Slide (Murphy), a fast-talking petty criminal from Josh's Queens neighborhood who's never worked on this scale before but is quite willing to try.

Everything unfolds pretty much as you might expect, but Ratner's got a few aces up his sleeve: Murphy, who hasn't been this funny outside of a "Shrek" movie in years; Téa Leoni, deliciously husky-voiced as an FBI agent with an eye for Josh (she has a great, slurry drunk scene in which she saunters — well, staggers — off with the movie); Casey Affleck, playing the exact same vaguely clueless character he played in "Ocean's Eleven" and doing it very well; the ever-beleaguered Stiller; and that car, the star attraction in an elaborate, well-staged action sequence guaranteed to cause a little vertigo.

A movie so elaborate that the New York Thanksgiving Day Parade plays a supporting role, complete with balloons and thousands of spectators, "Tower Heist" won't stay with you long. But, like popcorn, it's enjoyable while it lasts.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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