Making the Grades
The Tower is an apartment building situated in one of New York City’s most desirable neighborhoods. Here upscale tenants are waited upon and catered to by a team of workers diligently trained in the art of hospitality. And no one takes his job more seriously than Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), the general manager, who insists that all staff members keep their personal lives well out of sight of their affluent clientele.
However, their personal lives take center stage when Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) from the penthouse suite is arrested for fraud, because the wealthy financial broker had been entrusted with the employees’ pension fund. Worse yet, it was Josh’s idea to invest with Mr. Shaw, so the crew blames him for their present circumstances.
At first Josh defends the sophisticated older gentleman, reminding the others that he has only been accused, not convicted. But his loyalties switch when Lester (Stephen Henderson), the soon-to-retire doorman, decides to step in front of a subway train rather than face the loss of his life savings. Yet getting the arrogant Shaw to acknowledge any responsibility for his alleged crimes or to sympathize with the victims proves impossible. Even the FBI agent (Tea Leon) handling his case is certain the influential man will be able to pull enough strings to walk away from the charges.
Learning that Shaw has likely stashed some of his ill-gotten gains somewhere close to home, Josh determines to find the hiding spot, and like a modern-day Robin Hood, swipe the money back for all of the cheated employees. As accomplices he brings in Charlie (Casey Afflick) from concierge, Enrique (Michael Pena) the elevator operator, Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) from housekeeping and Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick), a man evicted from the building for not meeting his rent payments. Unfortunately, none of them have the skill set required for this type of work, so Josh also enlists the only criminal he knows—Slide, a petty thief from his neighborhood (played by Eddie Murphy).
The movie builds its comedy from these law-abiding novices attempting to become high-stakes thieves. Preliminary training focuses on shoplifting, lock picking and safe cracking. While none of these activities go perfectly, things don’t really go askew until the day comes to execute the plan.
The film also runs into a few snags. Although the violent depictions of gunplay and moments of peril are played for laughs, and some consequences for illegal behaviors are included, the majority of the script is loaded with mild and moderate profanity, crude terms and sexual dialogue. For many family viewers this objectionable content will tower over the actor’s funny performances and cast a shadow on the many humorous lines and slapstick antics.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Tower Heist.
If you found yourself defrauded of your life savings like the characters in this movie, what course of action would you follow to address your losses? What legal avenues would be open to you?
In this film the wrong doing against the employees is used to justify the characters decision to resort to illegal behavior. Are there times when people should take the law into their own hands? What would happen to our society if this were a common practice? While Josh is concerned about the fate of the many defrauded employees at the Tower, does he ever consider the plight of the other victims of this crime? Why or why not?
How much sympathy do you feel for the characters as they plot the big heist? Do you feel that sort of compassion when they go on their shoplifting spree?
How is chess used as a metaphor in this film? How does it help create the feeling that crime is a game?