Movie Review
Envy poster
By Gareth Von Kallenbach     Published April 30, 2004
US Release: April 30, 2004

Directed by: Barry Levinson
Starring: Ben Stiller , Jack Black , Rachel Weisz , Christopher Walken

Running Time: 99 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $12,970,000
It makes you wish the filmmakers had sprayed Vapoorize on the print and saved Black and Stiller from being wasted.
In the new film, ?Envy,? director Barry Levinson introduces us to Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller) and his best friend Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black): the two live across from one another in a comfy suburb and work at a local manufacturing plant. Tim is the focused one of the pair and is happy for what he has and looks forward to moving up the company ladder. Nick, on the other hand, is a dreamer who while solid in his reviews is always low in focus, always looking for a new way to come up with the next great invention.

One day Nick gets the idea to make a spray that causes pet waste to vanish. Coining the phrase ?Vapoorize,? Nick enlists the help of a person from work and they set out to accomplish the task despite Tim?s efforts to get Nick to abandon his dream, and even refuses Nick?s offer to invest $2,000 to become a partner. Soon after, Nick has a successful test of his invention and in no time is rich beyond his wildest dreams.

Flash forward 18 months and Nick has remained in the same suburb but has built a lavish mansion complete with a carousel and every trapping of success. Despite his continued friendship and generous gifts from Nick, Tim has been on a slow burn and his wife Debbie (Rachael Weisz) does not let him forget that all of this could be theirs as well if Tim would only have invested in the idea.

Into the picture comes a drifter known as J-Man (Christopher Walken), who mentors Tim on ways to knock Nick down a peg or two and regain what he has lost. Naturally things do not go as planned and Tim soon finds himself scrambling from one crazy situation to another as he attempts to recover from the trouble his envy has wrought.

Despite the presence of Stiller and Black, the film seems to be unsure if it wants to be a comedy, a black comedy, or a social commentary; it seems as if Levinson attempted all three, failing miserably. Walken does some nice work but the comedic situations that the film is rife with never come to fruition, and those that do are never explored to their potential. There is a funny scene involving a horse, and Stiller is great as the regular guy who gets in over his head. For two minutes you think that the film is about to turn the corner and become a series of madcap adventures; instead, the brakes are applied and the film never again reaches this kind of potential.

Stiller and Black have some nice moments but they are woefully restrained and not allowed to bust out with the over the top energy and crazy brilliance that have made their past films so successful. They make a good team and it would have been nice to have seen ?Envy? as a comedic showcase instead of a rudderless ship lacking direction; it makes you wish the filmmakers had sprayed Vapoorize on the print and saved great talent like Black and Stiller from being wasted.
Gareth's Grade: C-
Gareth's Overall Grading: 50 graded movies
Share, Bookmark