It seemed like a sure bet when two of the most popular comic actors in America teamed up, but Envy sat on the shelf for nearly two years as Dreamworks struggled to find a place for its poorly-received comedy. Finally, in early 2004 it limped into theaters - and, amazingly, it isn't nearly as bad as I expected.
Envy stars Ben Stiller and Jack Black as two best friends who end up at odds when one becomes filthy rich (Black) and the other loses his job (Stiller). You see, Black came up with the ridiculous idea to create a spray that vaporized dog poop and asked Stiller if he wanted to invest $2,000 to help him bring the idea to reality. Stiller, of course, rejected the idea - but VaPOOrize was invented and Black became the richest man in the country. Now, Stiller is envious of his best friend and will go to any length to become like him - or vice versa.
Sure, the concept is pretty stupid, but then again, Envy isn't supposed to be smart. It is lighthearted, silly entertainment that just never completely gets off the ground. There are plenty of funny jokes, but there are plenty of slow parts as well. Some things are too stupid, while others are just right.
Neither Stiller nor Black are at the top of their game here, but they are decent enough given the material. Envy is more of a situational comedy than one based on its characters - and both men are character actors. Rachel Weisz is wasted here, but Amy Poehler is pretty good. Christopher Walken is also fairly funny as a homeless bum, but doesn't he get bored of playing the same damn character in every comedy?
Envy is moderately enjoyable for the first two acts, but really struggles in the third. Most of the jokes have been dried up and it is clear that the screenwriter had no concept of how to finish the story. The only saving grace is that while the movie is beginning to bore us to death, we start paying attention to the soundtrack, which is rather humorous if you pay attention.
Envy is easily one of the worst movies of either actors' career, but it still has its entertainment value. Nevertheless, it is one of those movies that will be lost in the discount bin in a matter of months.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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