Envy review by Jackass Tom

Not intended to be good

Envy is the type of movie that is outrageously stupid and has to be enjoyed as such. That doesn’t mean it gets to pass GO and collect $200 just because it has the idiot tag. It has to live up to all the laughs supplied in other such low-brow entertainment (I am thinking Naked Gun,Caddyshack, and most Farelly brothers films). While Envy has some pretty hefty laughs and some catchy moments, it doesn’t exactly have the “I just had an anyuerism from laughing so hard” effect like I would hope from this team of actors.

Tim (Ben Stiller) and his neighbor Nick (Jack Black) are best of buds. They both work in the 3M plant and car pool together. Tim seems stuck somewhere in middle management, where as Nick is a slacker, dreamer type; possibly doing a bit more grunt work while his head is up in the clouds. They live under a brain-cancer’s-worth of power lines in a cookie cutter neighborhood, and ranch-style home Neverland. Everything seems a bit boring, until one day, one of Nick’s crazy dreams comes true: Va-poo-rize.

A year and a half later, Nick has a mansion where his house used to be because his product, Va-poo-rize is a hit. What does it do? One spray and dog poop disappears…LIKE THAT! Where does the poop go? No one seems to know. But while Nick is riding the gravy train his best buddy hates his life. Why? Well, look at the title: ENVY!!!

Ben Stiller plays his typical self-loathing character. He beats himself up over his own short comings, and can’t stand seeing lesser people get ahead. This is the same character he plays in Meet the Parents. There is supposed to be this audience association created when you see how bad he has it compared to others, but in most cases I find myself not liking his character for blaming others for his own shortcomings. His wife Debbie (Rachel Weisz) is just as bitter herself. She blames him for not supporting Va-poo-rize early and getting in on the ground floor. Together they make the perfect “Keeping up with the Jones’” couple.

Along comes Christopher Walken, for whatever reason, playing some bum drifter named J-Man. J-Man loves that Nick wants to “bring down the establishment” and “shove it to the man” and all sorts of phrases uttered in a Jefferson Airplane roadie sorta way. J-Man actually latches on to Tim and becomes that unwanted hippy friend who scares the kids. So naturally, the easily influenced Tim takes some advice from the J-Man and tries to bring his ole buddy down a notch, and as expected the plan gets way out of hand and so goes the comedy of spiraling disasters…

To tell you the truth, the movie took a huge awkward turn with the introduction of “J-Man”. I love seeing Walken play these out of sorts, nonsensical character, but it’s not for everyone. The moment his character enters the film it takes a turn from “standard comedy” to “goofball wacko comedy”. You will either laugh hysterically or ponder walking out at a ticket price loss.

Want a bigger surprise? This movie is directed by Barry Levinson. The Barry Levinson. The guy that directed Rain Man, Wag the Dog and Good Morning Vietnam. This guy’s 2nd film was The Natural for cripes sakes! Talk about going out on a limb. This type of movie had the ”Saturday Night alum gets a flick” feel to it. Not the type of movie that is usually directed by a heavy-weight in the field. Maybe he liked how the film’s suburban satire and on how envy of status items (a big white horse, a butler and of course “flan” for dessert) will lead to ultimate evils. Pretty interesting way show it for a revered director.

Another funny thing is that this movie sat on the shelf for about two years before it got released. It almost went straight to video because it screened so poorly. Its funny what a good year by Jack Black can do for a dying film.

Most of the laughs in this one are spread out. It’s pretty much split between physical humor (IE Ben Stiller getting hurt, Jack Black seductively dancing and wrinkling his eyebrows) or goofy jabs at suburban middle class life. (NOTE: The irony of the latter is that all these rich movie stars are mocking the life of schlumps like me. Oh well.) Envy isn’t intended to be a think piece, I realize that. Regardless, it lacked the sort of continuity and laughs throughout to keep a goofy comedy going. Granted I enjoyed the movie, I laughed a number of times, but I was one of the few people in the theatre voicing my opinion.

5 out of 10 Jackasses
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