The kind-hearted Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) prepares for work at Manhattan’s most exclusive luxury apartment building by making a move on a virtual chess game while quickly making breakfast and listening to a foodie radio host give advice on wine and cheese pairings. It is obvious that he’s quick and smart, when he expertly repeats the wine advice to a resident, Wall Street wizard Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda). Shaw is quick to acknowledge Kovac’s wine advice, then smugly informs Kovacs that their chess game has ended. Kovacs takes the news of his defeat in stride, his job is to make the residents feel comfortable and pampered, and to allow them to believe they are superior, after all. Not too much different than your job really. Unlike your boss, Kovacs expertly leads a team of diverse and well-coiffed staff, who seem content to cater to the needs of the one percent, until they are duped.
Alda is immediately dislikable as Shaw, so it is no surprise when he’s revealed as a charlatan who’s squandered the staff’s pension fund. And when FBI agent Claire Denham (Teo Leoni) admits to Kovacs that they’ve been unable to find Shaw’s suspected stash of cash, the audience is ready for the payback.
The concierge (Casey Affleck), elevator operator (Michael Pena) and Kovacs may know the building, but they know nothing about stealing so they acquire an actual thief, Slide (Eddie Murphy), maid/safe cracker (Gabourey Sidibe) and foreclosed homeowner, former Merrill Lynch investment banker and Yale grad Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) who, well, really doesn’t have anything else to do. This fantastic cast brings both physical comedy and well delivered lines to this film. Murphy has an opportunity to display his chameleon like character creating ability, but the strong cast prevents it from becoming the Eddie Murphy show. Sidibe certainly has a future with more comedic roles.
Directed by Brett Rattner (Rush Hour) the film was shot in New York, focused on the luxury apartment building. In sharp contrast, we also see the neighborhood where Kovacs and Slide have resided since childhood, and Shaw outgrew. In addition to Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s foodie radio show in the opening scene there are many more cameos. They are there to remind us that this is not a serious heist movie, it’s just a funny little caper, with a sweet doorman named Lester (Stephen McKinley Henderson) that you’ll fall in love with.
The economy is bad enough that most can relate to this film: watching your retirement savings evaporate before your eyes, suddenly finding yourself with no health insurance through no fault of your own, or the nagging feeling that you are waaaaaay smarter than that asshole with millions while your management position is little more than being a well dressed waiter. Don’t worry about how much a car weighs, or that it is far more likely that Josh Kovacs would be sucking an inhaler than scaling a cable 500 feet in the air. Laugh. Don’t over think it. And enjoy some sweet revenge. And if you are lucky enough to have a job, go back to work on Monday, and kiss the appropriate ass so you can keep it.
Run Time: 104 minutes. Rated PG-13