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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Brian Hamill)

photo caption:
STILL FRIENDS BEFORE THE ENVY BEGINS: Natalie and Nick Vanderpark (Amy Poehler and Jack Black, left) and Tim and Debbie Dingman (Ben Stiller and Rachel Weisz), next door neighbors and best friends, are about to discover the fate of Nick's invention.
end caption.


"Envy": Ben Stiller and Jack Black Play Best Buddies in a Bad Comedy

Review by Kam Williams


Jack Black and Ben Stiller are a couple of comic actors at the top of their game. Ben has already enjoyed a couple of hit movies earlier this year in Along Came Polly and Starsky & Hutch. Black starred in one of the best movies of 2003 as the substitute teacher who inspired a class of uptight 10 year-old prep students to unleash their inner pop stars in School of Rock.

Since these comedians were under the tutelage of director Barry Levinson for this film, much was expected of their collaboration with the six-time Academy Award-nominee. Levinson, who won an Oscar for Rain Man in 1989, has an impressive resumé with screen classics such as Bugsy, The Natural, Diner, And Justice for All, Wag the Dog, and Tin Men.

However, Envy, is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year. The first job of any comedy is to make its audience laugh, and this feature fails miserably in that regard. At my screening, it actually elicited a smattering of boos as the closing credits began to roll.

The major problem is the script, which is neither funny nor coherent, followed closely by the miscasting of Black, who had made a name for himself by playing a string of irrepressibly devilish characters. In Envy he play Nick Vanderpark, a subdued suburbanite stuck in an unsatisfying job as a middle manager at a 3M sandpaper factory.

Stiller is equally ill cast as Tim Dingman, Nick's best friend, next door neighbor, and carpooling co-worker. Early on we learn that Nick is a dreamer who comes up with one get rich quick scheme after another, whereas conservative Tim prefers to climb the corporate ladder to success.

The fun begins when Nick invents Pooperize, a miracle spray which makes dog poop disappear instantaneously. Tim turns down his pal's offer to be 50-50 partners in the enterprise for a mere $2,000 investment. He is later envious after the cockamamie idea becomes a success.

The Vanderparks become gazillionaires overnight and indulge themselves in all the gaudy trappings of the nouveau riche. Tim, in turn, behaves like the jealous guy who can no longer keep up with the Joneses. After he accidentally kills his friend's prized pet horse, he is blackmailed by a mysterious drifter (Christopher Walken) who appears out of nowhere.

Nonetheless, Walken, whose wry sense of humor alone can often save a bad situation, cannot help the film. Envy's implausible plotline, seasick cinematography, and absence of humorous moments add up to an irritating, insulting experience which explains why Dreamworks decided to delay the film's release for a year.

It should have been left on the shelf.

Poor (0 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and crude humor.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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