Envy (2004)


Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Envy is a terrible movie.  I hated it.  It has great actors in it (Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Rachel Weisz and Amy Poehler) but they don't even seem to be trying to make this movie funny.  And director Barry Levinson (Toys) has never been a favorite.  The only reason I didn't get up and walk out of this movie was because I was waiting to sneak in to see Van Helsing after I saw Troy and I had figured out a schedule where I would watch this one in between.  I knew, going into it that the reviews were bad, but in retrospect they were actually generous.

This is one of those rare occasions where I am tricked by a movie.  How could something with all these great actors be so awful?  It seems impossible that a film with both Jack Black and Ben Stiller could suck.  But somehow they found a way.  

First of all, except for 6 or 7 year old boys, a story that is so focused on dog crap is bound to be a failure.  The premise of the film is that Jack Black's character invents a spray that evaporates poo.  Ben Stiller's character thinks the idea is crazy and refuses to invest the start up money of $2000.  So Jack becomes a kazillionare and Ben becomes the working class best friend of a kazillionare.  I won't elaborate more on the story because it's boring.

I know Ben Stiller is trying to set the record for most movie releases in a single year but perhaps this was one they should have left on the shelves.  I heard it actually was shelved for the last few years but someone (wrongly) decided it was time to release it.  

The movie is a straight rip off of comedy moments from other Ben Stiller movies and then never really even develops it's titular "envy."  There's an accidental horse killing like the one we saw a few months ago in Starsky and Hutch.  There's a narrative song that keeps popping up like the ones in There's Something About Mary.  Stiller is playing a lower key than usual version of his bumbling straight guy character and Jack Black's character is a way toned down version of the high energy enthusiasm that made him a star.  The only person who seems to be trying here is Christopher Walken (who does a great job with what he has to work with.)

I won't bother to continue ranting about how much I didn't like this movie.  If you never see it you will have saved a valuable 99 minutes of your life.  I hope Stiller's movie for next month, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, is at least funny enough to be called a comedy.