ENVY, by director Barry Levinson, whose last strike-out was BANDITS, completely
wastes a good cast, which includes Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz and
Christopher Walken. We've all seen old movies with actors in minor roles who
later became stars but who were still learning their craft back then, giving
awkward and sometimes downright pathetic performances. Thanks to Levinson's
misdirection, each of the aforementioned stars in ENVY delivers performances
that are as lame as most actors' first endeavors.
Even the film's cinematography, by Tim Maurice-Jones, is singularly ugly,
looking as washed out as an old print of an old TV movie.
The story, not that you should care, concerns "Vapoorizer," an invention by
Nick Vanderpark (Black) to make dog poo instantly disappear. Nick and his wife
Natalie (Amy Poehler) live across the street from Tim and Debbie Dingman
(Stiller and Weisz). Once the product takes off -- Tim is offered half of the
company early-on but turns it down -- the Vanderparks rebuild their small
house, turning it into something that would put the Beverly Hillbillies'
mansion to shame. Like a small theme park, Vanderland features many
attractions, including a big carousel in the front yard.
The script by Steve Adams doesn't give the characters much funny to say or do.
The movie's one big joke involves Stiller accidentally killing a horse. We've
seen this before and recently. The last movie to use this joke (STARSKY AND
HUTCH) didn't think it was so funny that they could make it the centerpiece of
It may come as no surprise that this picture, which was originally advertised
as opening in the summer of 2003, has had a slew of release date changes. Our
audience voted with their relative silence that this is a film which should
have gone straight to video, where it could and should be completely ignored.
Instead, many viewers are going to buy tickets, thinking "Ben Stiller and Jack
Black -- I can't go wrong with them." These consumers are going to be very
upset. "Vapoorize this movie!" is what they'll be thinking when they leave.
ENVY runs 1:39. It is rated PG-13 for "language and sexual/crude humor" and
would be acceptable for kids around 11 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes