A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy comedy appears to have been inspired by Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, it's not heavy-handed and is likely to appeal to teens who are fans of either of the stars or director Brett Ratner's action movies. Expect plenty of high-octane scenes -- car chases, a Ferrari dangling from 50 stories high, etc. -- as well as a fair amount of swearing (particularly "s--t"), product placement, and sexual innuendoes/references to sex. The characters' scheme is a crime, but they're presented as Robin Hood-esque in their motivations.
What's the story?
Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is the most important of all the important residents of the Tower, a posh Manhattan residential high-rise run by building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller). They don't have very much in common, except perhaps a love of online chess. But Shaw, in what first appeared to be a magnanimous act, agreed to manage the staff's pensions; it seemed like a good thing, since he's a stock-market whisperer of sorts who's able to eke out dividends when no one else can. But when Shaw is accused of fraud, Kovacs realizes that he and everyone else might have been duped, their money gone forever. How can they get it back? Can justice be served? And will Kovacs' burgeoning interest in FBI agent Claire Denham (Tea Leoni), who's guarding Shaw, complicate matters?
Is it any good?
If you're seeking escape, you'll get it from TOWER HEIST. Not an escape from the news, exactly, since the movie's main storyline -- an obscenely wealthy money manager is arrested for defrauding his clients, who include the staff at his tony NYC residential building -- seems ripped from the Bernie Madoff headlines. Nor from the usual cliches of action movies. But the film is certainly entertaining enough to be an escape from daily life. Co-stars Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, and the rest of the gang have perfect chemistry -- essential in a movie that's positing them as a band of brothers of sorts.
Nevertheless, you have to ask: Why does Broderick only get shlubby roles these days? And does anyone care about the plot, which isn't exactly bulletproof? (There are plenty of inconsistencies, and a romance between two main characters is predictable and doesn't really add anything to the proceedings.) Be that as it may, the film is still a delight. Watching the crime itself unfold in what may be one of the most hectic days in the city -- in the middle of the Thanksgiving Day parade -- gives it added oomph. Tower Heist has chutzpah, and the action builds satisfyingly, and that's more than can be said about so many other, momentum-less movies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' motivations. Are they justified in wanting to get revenge? Is it ever justifiable to commit a crime to right a wrong?
Does the movie seem skewed toward the perpetrators? Why? And should it be? Would you have as much sympathy for the characters if they were real-life people?
How does the movie address class and race? Does it undermine stereotypes or reinforce them? Are the characters a realistic depiction of life in New York?
Do you think people who commit Ponzi schemes start off expecting to defraud people, or do you think they accidentally end up in that situation when they take a big risk that fails? How should the legal system punish criminals who steal people's life savings?
For kids who love comedy
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