Envy [2004]

Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz, Amy Poehler, Christopher Walken
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 99 minutes

Envy is a funny movie, but it's more funny peculiar than funny ha-ha, so enjoyment is purely a matter of personal taste. When Nick (Jack Black) invents an aerosol spray that makes dog-poop disappear (think of the boon to society!), he reaps a fortune overnight and sends his friend, co-worker and neighbor Tim (Ben Stiller) into a tailspin of simmering envy, since he had no faith in Nick's get-rich-quick scheme and declined his offer of 50-50 partnership. What makes this potentially raucous plot peculiar is that it sets up the situation and proceeds to ignore its most comedic implications, opting instead for a sub-plot involving bows, arrows, a dead horse, and an eccentric vagrant (Christopher Walken, offering reliable comic relief) who coaches Tim on the joys of neighborly blackmail. All the while, Envy suffers a comedic identity crisis, giving Black and Stiller a few good laughs (along with their on-screen wives, played by Rachel Weisz and Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler) while director Barry Levinson struggles to reach a quirky balance of morality play and blue-collar farce. He never quite gets there. --Jeff Shannon

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