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Tower Heist

A working-man's revenge fantasia is pretty dumbed down

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A bunch of working stiffs who help run and maintain a glossy Manhattan apartment building lose their pensions. Seems the investment plan touted by their zillionaire boss (Alan Alda) was a Ponzi scheme. Incensed by the boss' cavalier attitude, the building manager (Ben Stiller) organizes a crew of employees (Casey Affleck, Michael Pena), a former tenant (Matthew Broderick) and a neighbor (Eddie Murphy), who's a petty criminal. The plan: Break into the penthouse and steal back what they're owed. Brett Ratner's ensemble comedy breaks down into three typical parts, with few surprises: getting screwed over; planning the robbery; and executing the un-crime (during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, for added product placement). The cast is good, but most of the jokes and characterizations are well-worn, which makes this ripped-from-the-headlines comedy feel curiously dated.

So yeah, the little guys stick it to a one-percenter in this feel-good fantasia. It's some fortuitous timing, what with Occupy Wall Street and Everywhere Else, Mrs. Bernie Madoff shedding crocodile tears on 60 Minutes and the super-rich still laughing all the way to the bank. That said, whatever vicarious thrills this Robin Hood-Charging-Central Park film delivers depends on turning off nearly all of one's brain. (Leave the light on in the Money-Matters Cortex, though.) While this is all mildly amusing -- especially if your preferred reality does not need to conform to the basic laws of physics -- I'm still troubled. Can dumbing-down ever be part of the solution? Chuckle if you must, but don't forget Hollywood is another bunch of one-percenters whom we let treat us like idiots. For $10, we deserve better.

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