Envy

Directed by Barry Levinson

> > Apr 2004

Envy - Directed by Barry Levinson
By Erin OkeEnvy isn't sure what kind of movie it wants to be: a darkly comic exploration of consuming jealously or a wacky, over-the-top comedy of misunderstandings and heists. And it doesn't really do either that well.

It's the story of Nick and Tim (Jack Black and Ben Stiller), two best friends, neighbours, and co-workers living a relatively happy middleclass existence until one of Nick's crazy inventing schemes — a spray that evaporates dog shit call Vapoorize — hits the big time and makes Nick a ton of money. Suddenly, the income gap between the families creates envy-fuelled tension, with Tim's early refusal to enter to poo business, which would have made them all rich, haunting him and his family. The situation is exacerbated by Nick and his family's well-intentioned combination of generosity and extremely ostentatious displays of wealth that culminate in their building a ridiculous mansion where their old suburban house stood, right across the street from Tim's.

As Tim's envy begins to destroy his life, he meets a stranger in a bar (played by the incomparable Christopher Walken) who seems intent on helping him get revenge on his rich, clueless friend. From there, all hell breaks loose.

The movie is too much on many levels — the jokes are too broad, the situations too fake and contrived, and the conclusions too obvious. While both Stiller and Black are fine comedic actors, their characters in the film lack the genuine humanity that would give you something to hold onto other than the over-the-top antics, which become grating after a while. The female characters are even worse — one's dumb, one's coldly ambitious and both are cringe-worthy in their shallowness.

The film's saving grace is Walken, whose presence, absurd timing and delivery elevate every scene he's in, managing to take the film in a few unexpected directions. Still, he's not enough to redeem Envy from its utter lack of depth and subtlety. (Dreamworks/Universal)
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