Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Envy

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual/crude humor

Reviewed by: Evan D. Baltz
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teens and Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
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)
Amy Poehler
Stephanie Adams
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)
Distributor: Dreamworks
Copyright, Dreamworks
Copyright, Dreamworks
Copyright, Dreamworks
Copyright, Dreamworks
Copyright, Dreamworks
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Relevant Issues
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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

Viewer Comments
Negative—The movie is pretty crude in language and has the usual poor morals. But it’s just done pretty badly. It’s not funny, although it is cute at times. Many of the scenes are just plain stupid. Ben Stiller can’t pull this one off, because the plot (if you call it one) is not done very well. One reviewer gave it 1 ½ stars, I would give it ½ star.
My Ratings: [Average/½]
—Dan Clark, age 54
Positive—…I went to see Envy for one reason: Stiller and Black. I disagree with the reviewer except for one account: Weisz deserves a much more rewarding role than this one. Otherwise, the movie was fairly clean, anything sexual was “in place” because we are dealing with married couples, and the humor, while dry most of the time, had me rolling most of the way through. This isn’t a typical Stiller movie or a typical Black movie…
My Ratings: [ Better than Average/3]
—Doug, age 23
Negative—As a Christian, I thought the film was not too offensive, but it is just an terrible movie. I am big fans of both Ben Stiller and Jack Black and have enjoyed most of the films they have been in so when I saw them paired together I thought it would be very successful. Boy was I wrong, surely they should have read the script more carefully. If you have not seen it, then let me save you both time and money for better movies.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/1]
—John McCullough, age 25

Comments from young people
Neutral—This movie was ok, But definitely not for kids under 10. I thought this movie had a good message to not have envy! There was a lot of language, but the vapoorizer is sooo funny. If the adult see’s this movie first it might be ok to watch with the whole family.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Samantha Fields, age 10
Negative—I don’t recommend this movie for anyone, and even more so to families with small children. Not only is the movie an extreme disappointment (face it, it was almost never funny), but it also uses curse words in some of the most out of the way places. A few times I was almost certain that they included them because they were cuss words. In the movie’s defense, however, it had an adequate message (that envy’s not a good thing), and it did have a couple of humorous parts.
My Ratings: [Average/1½]
—Rosalie, age 13
Negative—I just saw this movie, and I have always thought that Ben and Jack have been funny people, but in this movie I was disgusted! It was sickening, to many rude jokes and cussing. Just not a movie I would normally see. I see the commercials on TV about the movie, and it seems like a funny movie. But then I go see it and its just unnecessary.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—Sarah, age 15
Positive—The Movie ENVY was funny,because of the hilarious Christopher Walken and Ben Stiller and Jack Black. There was 2 scenes of crude humor,and many usings of s*** and a brief f*** but I liked it…
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Jake, age 12
Neutral—Some parts were funny but the rest seemed extremely boring.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Zook, age 13
Positive—GREAT! This is Blacks cleanest movie yet (and one of his funniest). The only reason it was rated PG-13 is because of its mild language…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Klein, age 14
Negative—This movie, would have to be one of the worst comedies of this year. Now you might be thinking because it has sexual content? There was no sexual content in the movie. Maybe it was the vulgar language? There was a bit of language but not enough to deter a lot of people. This movie had a very boring plot and it would have to be the first movie I walked out of, only because of the boredomIi was suffering while watching “Envy.” I do not recommend this movie to anyone, not because it has objectional content, but only to spare you from the suffering I went through. Please save your money and go to a different movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/1]
—Scott, age 17
Movie Critics
…comedy fans will be sick …a weirdly airless disaster, a turkey…
—Ty Burr, Boston Globe
…funny, yes, but not really funny enough… weak at exploiting the comic potential of the invention itself…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…DreamWorks kept “Envy” on the shelf for a year, waiting for the right time to release the Ben Stiller-Jack Black comedy. There is no such time…
—Jack Garner, Cincinnati Enquirer
…a shaggy dog-poop story that’ll make you wish you could spray something at the screen to make it disappear… meanders down dead ends that lead to the Italian president in a hot tub commenting on penis sizes…
—Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune