Not a film worthy of ‘Envy’ing


Grade D

Ben Stiller

Jack Black

Director Barry Levinson

99 mins.

Ben Stiller and Jack Black have the reputation of being absolutely hysterical in their separate movie endeavors. It seems like an amazing idea to pair up these two to create a deliriously funny flick. Too bad director Barry Levinson’s “Envy” had to go and spoil that whole idea.

The film is so awful that it is hard to find even one good thing to say about it. It is only possible to mention each agonizing element that led to the overall disappointment of the film. The plot is severely simple in that all it consists of is two average Joes who are best friends; one makes it big; the other is envious of his friend’s new lifestyle.

How could they possibly make a 99-minute movie on that? There is an easy answer; they couldn’t, not without severely dragging out each scene at an irritatingly geriatric pace.

Tim (Ben Stiller) and his friend and neighbor, Nick (Jack Black), carpool together to their factory jobs everyday. Nick is always dreaming of crazy inventions and finally stumbles on one that will make him some cash, “Vapoorizer.” It is an invention that makes animal droppings disappear with one spray from an aerosol can.

Tim tries to encourage his friend to ditch the ridiculous idea, but onward it goes and Nick and his family get rich from their “Vapoorizer” profits. They build a mansion where their old middle class house stood and they buy a horse, a carousel and everything else they think rich people should have. Tim and his family become envious of all Nick has acquired, but they maintain their good friendship.

Nick is rarely seen in the middle of the film, appearing only here and there with his frivolous new purchases. A very depressed Tim and the downfall of his life are the main focus for a good portion of the film. He wants to knock Nick off of his high horse and he plots to bring Nick’s social scale back down to its previous middle class level. This, of course, backfires in his face. The film tries to show a “money can’t buy happiness” theme, but then it contradicts itself. It is really difficult to find an overall point to the film.

Maybe it is that Stiller and Black look awkward in this type of familial role. They have wives and children and are supposed to be everyday people. Stiller and Black can do nothing to make their characters even slightly entertaining and they are so far away from their stupidly funny roles that they are famous for. It is no wonder that the film’s release date has had numerous postponements. Maybe it should have gone right to DVD.

“Envy” is a movie that has serious situations with a failing attempt to add the comedic power of Ben Stiller and Jack Black. The jokes are forced and the most appalling situations are supposed to be comedic. Supposedly the task of disposing of a dead horse is hysterical. It is chock full of “shake your head and wonder why” situations.

Certainly, past Stiller and Black movies have the reputation to have “potty humor” jokes. “Envy” tries to outdo the wit of those past films, but goes a few notches too far. Nothing can save the film from its downward plummet to the land of the worst films ever.