Envy

Sundry deadly sins have driven any number of delectable black comedies, but director Barry Levinson blows it big time when it comes to one of the most delicious of all: envy. The sinner is Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller), a by-the-book mid-level manager at 3M industries who's bootstrapped it all the way to his very own brown-paneled basement office. Such enviable...read more

Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Sundry deadly sins have driven any number of delectable black comedies, but director Barry Levinson blows it big time when it comes to one of the most delicious of all: envy. The sinner is Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller), a by-the-book mid-level manager at 3M industries who's bootstrapped it all the way to his very own brown-paneled basement office. Such enviable success has eluded his co-worker, neighbor and best friend, Nick (Jack Black), who just doesn't seem have Tim's focus. Nick's a dreamer, always on the lookout for that one idea that will make him a rich man. One afternoon while watching a dog-walker scooping Fido's poop off the sidewalk, that one idea hits Nick like a brick: Va-poo-rize, an aerosol dog-poo eliminator. Just spray it on, and "pet litter" magically disappears. Tim thinks he's nuts, and when Nick offers to let him in on the ground floor for a piddling $2000, Tim tells him that Va-poo-rize isn't even an invention; it's just an idea with a stupid name. Eighteen months later, Va-poo-rize is everywhere, Nick's worth millions and living like Richie Rich. Instead of leaving the Valley for the palm-lined poshness of Beverly Hills, Nick has decided to stay put, replacing his split-level Valley ranch with a massive McMansion, right across the street from the very best friend who's now kicking himself half to death. Each morning as Tim piles into his dinky compact car, he gets to watch Nick rev up his bright yellow Lamborghini or gallop past his carousel on Corky, a gleaming white stallion whose stable is bigger than Tim's entire house. Nick's ditzy wife, Natalie (SNL's Amy Poehler), is now running for Congress (or the Senate, she's not sure which), while Tim's wife, Debbie (Rachel Weisz), can't contain her resentment and leaves, taking the kids with her. Enter dive-bar philosopher J-Man (Christopher Walken), whom the frustrated Tim meets the same day he's fired for blowing up at his boss. J-Man dispenses a few words of really bad advice, which Tim takes drunkenly to heart. By the next morning, Corky is dead and Tim is scrambling to hide the carcass. Natalie's environmentally conscious constituency, meanwhile, is demanding to know "Where does the poop go?" From the looks of things, a big chunk of it wound up onscreen. Levinson, who has directed enough films to know better, should recognize a stinker of a script when he reads one: Instead of wicked laughs he serves up sloppy schtick, dead spots filled with lame ad-libbing and Walken crooning "The Happy Wanderer" ("Val-deri, Val-dera... et cetera"). In the end it's not even a comedy, just an idea for one.

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