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Envy (2004)

April. 30,2004
| Comedy
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A man becomes increasingly jealous of his friend's newfound success.


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Envy (2004): Dir: Barry Levinson / Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz, Christopher Walken, Amy Poehler: Comedy about jealousy, greed and the very thing that creates bad out of good. Ben Stiller and Jack Black plays best pals who work together at a sandpaper factory but when Black comes up with an idea regarding a spray that can vanquish dog dung, Stiller refuses to go half on it thinking it ridiculous. When the idea excel Stiller is overcome with envy even though Black remains the same friend. When Stiller accepts advice from a homeless bum played by Christopher Walken, he ends up accidentally shooting Black's horse with an arrow while drunk. Realizing his wrong he struggles to conceal it. Great idea although the invention is never followed up upon. Well made comedy with fine directing by Barry Levinson who also made Wag the Dog and Rain Man. Stiller and Black are terrific at opposite ends whose common ground rests on forgiveness and friendship. Unfortunately Rachel Weisz is flat as Stiller's wife. Walken pulls off the humour effectively in his interjection and tragic poise. Amy Poehler plays Black's wife who is running for state senate. It might be interesting to see Black and Poehler in stronger comedic material. While the film could have elevated to greater heights with the invention it still presents a strong theme resulting in love, friendship and forgiveness. Score: 6 ½ / 10


"Envy" bombed at the box office in 2004, but that doesn't mean it's not worth watching (or owning). Jack Black and Ben Stiller play neighbors & best friends in Southern California who work at a sandpaper factory. Black strikes it rich with an invention and builds a vast mansion where his former home was. Of course, this stirs the envy of Stiller who gets mixed-up with an eccentric vagabond, played by Christopher Walken. Amy Poehler and Rachel Weisz play the wives.While "Envy" isn't very laugh-out-loud funny, it's consistently amusing and the story is good enough to maintain your attention. Walken stands out as the offbeat bum. What I like best is the film's originality; I really can't think of any other films like it. Maybe that's why it bombed. I also like the way "Envy" pokes fun at materialism and everything that goes with it, e.g. envy. In addition, it's nice to watch a comedy like this without overt sleaze and overkill cussing, like 2007's "The Heartbreak Kid" (I don't mind realistic cussing in movies, but when it's overdone it's neither impressive nor funny; it's just stoo-pid and smacks of lazy writing).Weisz and Poehler are as gorgeous as ever, but they're decidedly peripheral and the filmmakers never take advantage of their presence. Regardless, "Envy" is solid, original amusement.The film runs 99 minutes and was shot in Santa Clarita, L.A. & Culver Studios, CA, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.GRADE: B


With a cast that includes Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz, Amy Poehler and Christopher Walken, how could one go wrong with a comedy? The answer, in this case, is poor writing and direction. Barry Levinson's is poorly developed, inconsistent and overall a weak film. Some of the lines made me cringe. Even Jack Black and Ben Stiller couldn't do much to rise above the bad writing and Amy Poehler is terribly wasted. The only good thing is that all five actors have good chemistry and perhaps because they work well together, they, especially Weisz and Walken, manage to draw at least a few chuckles in some sequences. Given the premise, this could have easily been an engaging dark comedy. Unfortunately, Steve Adams horrendously messes up the screenplay that 'Envy' barely stands a chance. I don't know why a talented director like Barry Levinson chose to do this movie. It's a pity that a promising cast is wasted in it.


OK, I overrated it just a bit to offset at least one of those grumpy reviews. But I did enjoy it. I didn't laugh out loud, but it held my interest and pulled me along without dropping me at any point. The story built. Yeah, you knew it would have an happy ending--this genre always does. Meantime, it was quirky with sight gags you could miss, so pay attention when you watch. Stiller and Black delivered expertly yet again. Good team. They should work together more. Don't know that it will be a cult classic, but it was certainly a fun ride. Not as good as WHAT ABOUT BOB, or DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS but what is? It is still worth going out of your way a little to get and watch this movie.