Reviewed by: Evan D. Baltz
|Featuring:||Jack Black (The School of Rock; Orange County; Saving Silverman; Shallow Hal; High Fidelity)
Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly; Starsky and Hutch; Duplex; Orange County; Zoolander; Meet the Parents)
Rachel Weisz (The Mummy; Confidence; Runaway Jury)
|Director:||Barry Levinson (Possession; Bandits; Sphere; Wag the Dog; Rain Man; Good Morning, Vietnam)|
|Producer:||Barry Levinson, Paula Weinstein (Looney Tunes: Back in Action; Analyze That; Possession; Bandits)|
Have you ever been jealous of someone else’s success, money or possessions? It’s a very common human emotion. In fact, as I was walking out of the theatre after this movie was over, I found myself being very envious of the other people coming into the theatre who were going to see other movies. If only I could be them, I thought. I was also envious of the other members of my group who saw the screening with me-envious that they walked out of the movie about 25 minutes into it and received their money back. If only I could have done the same.
Yes, envy is a very common human emotion, but unfortunately not the name of a good movie.
It seemed like a sure-fire combination of comedic talent: Jack Black (School of Rock) and Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly). Both have made numerous side-splitting movies. Jack Black’s energy and undeniable likeableness, along with Ben Stiller’s manic, nervous self-consciousness would seem the perfect recipe for a hugely funny dish. Not the case. While there were moments of out-loud laughter, those moments became further and further apart as the plot unfolded, rather, unraveled.
Jack Black’s character, Nick, is the next door neighbor, best friend, and co-worker to Ben Stiller’s Tim. They both work in rather unsatisfying jobs at a factory which produces sandpaper. Tim is the focused hard worker, while Nick is a dreamer. One day Nick dreams up the idea of inventing a product that can make dog poo disappear. When it seems as if he can actually make the invention work, he invites his friend to invest $2000 with him to get the new product-Vapoorize-off the ground.
Tim poo poos the idea, so to speak, and decides instead to spend his money on his dream of a bean-shaped pool for the back yard. When Vapoorize becomes a huge success, Tim begins to burn with jealousy towards his friend’s success. Nick and family build a White House shaped mansion on the site of their old house, across the street from Tim and family, under the power lines of the oft-made-fun-of community outside of Los Angeles known as “The Valley.”
Tim’s envy negatively effects his relationship with his wife and kids, who leave, and his job, which he looses. Drinking his sorrows away in a bar, he meets The J Man, played by Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can). Walken is his usual quirky self, playing a bum who spins non-sensical wisdom like a street psychiatrist. The J Man tells Tim to “shake things up” across the street to make his friend’s life miserable. It all spirals down from there. Both the movie and Tim’s life. Suffice to say, the middle third of the movie centers around concealing a horse accident.
Talented actress Rachel Weisz (Runaway Jury) is oddly cast as Stiller’s wife, and is unable to salvage any respectability to this talent-laden, under-producing, mostly unfunny film. Stiller and Black have a few moments of chemistry, but the script doesn’t give them enough opportunities to just interact. In the end, I would guess most viewers will leave the theatre envious of a can of Vapoorize to apply to this load of a movie.
The lesson is two-fold. (1) Envy is a destructive emotion that can ruin friendships, jobs, marriages, and a life. Giving into its grip can be disastrous. And (2), making a movie filled with talented actors doesn’t guarantee something worth watching.
If the plot and uneven script, and overplayed acting weren’t enough, watching this movie also subjects one to a fairly sizable barrage of unnecessary swearing. One particular euphemism for the matter Vapoorize works on, is uttered nearly 30 times. Four other swear words are uttered a dozen or so times, and the Lord’s name (in several forms) was taken in vain about 20 times. There were several other crude references as well. Perhaps, considering the story, one would expect some of these, but virtually all were unnecessary and certainly did not advance the comedic impact.
There is no nudity in the movie, but several sexual references.
Save your $8.50, but don’t flaunt your wealth. Be thankful for what you have-namely a chance to see a different movie. I will try not to be envious of you.
Grade: D+ / Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None