The Tower is one of those places in
New York City
where the residents pay a lot of money in order to be around….other people
with a lot of money. “The Help” is
suitably obsequious, of course, but the good ones have a little something
extra: they know the dogs’ names,
too, and when Mr. Miller in 406 needs a little warning that his wife is
returning, or the Chinese lady who enjoys a bouquet of roses at the Chinese
New Year. This is first-class, quality,
personal service, all presided over by an efficient, competent manager (Ben
Stiller) who gets to suck up directly to the Big Boss, played with great smug
self-satisfaction by Alan Alda, who is constantly reminding the “little
people” of his humble origins, thinking that he is being charming, believing
his thinly-disguised condescension to be cleverly hidden from the unperceptive
He’s also a swindler.
Well, actually, he’s more like one of those aggressive investors who
ooze prosperity but are actually teetering on a financial house of cards that
any ill wind of adversity could easily blow down.
And when the inevitable happens, he continues to confidently insist on
his innocence, while hard-working folk realize with growing dread that their
pensions have been obliterated by the careless stroke of a smooth operator.
Any of this sounding vaguely familiar?
Now it’s time for the peasants to
storm the castle. Stiller gets
summarily fired for mouthing off when he realized that everyone had been
pilfered, and now, along with a few disgruntled associates, is ready to get
even. His henchmen, though, are only
desperate concierges like himself, along with one disgraced stockbroker, a
sad-sack consortium of societal impotents which no reasonable person would
mistake for a self-respecting den of thieves. But
Stiller has a neighbor, a street-wise larcenist played with menacing artistry
by Eddie Murphy. His idea of robbery
training is to instruct them to disperse around a neighborhood mall and
shoplift, just to prove they’re not the law-abiding pansies they appear to
be. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Meanwhile, the FBI agent on Alda’s
case, played by Tea Leoni, is also frustrated with slimeballs who get away
with fraud because they can, and not-so-secretly applauds the Robin Hood gang
for their audacity and careful planning. Let’s
see, throw in a few red herrings like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,
and Steve McQueen’s personal Ferrari, a stolen truck decoy, an empty safe,
and a false text message from a purloined cell phone, and you have the
ingredients for a slick, engaging tale of hijinks and hijacks.
Sure, there are plot holes, if you want
to look for them. But this is one of
those popcorn movies where you sit back and enjoy the ride and don’t think
too much. Even about versatile Gabourey
Sidibe (“Precious”) as a Jamaican safecracker.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,