ninth symphony films - movie reviews

ENVY (2004)

DIRECTOR  -  barry levinson

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  99 minutes

RELEASED  -  30 april 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  dreamworks pictures


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $40,000,000
envy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from envy at

buy the dvd from envy at

a man becomes increasingly jealous of his friend's newfound success.

this movie sat on the shelf for 2 years before being theatrically released.


picture from envy

picture from envy

picture from envy


zero out of four possible stars

Envy is a horribly unfunny film that should never have been theatrically released. How many jokingly lame performances must one endure over the course of one year from Lame Film Aficionado Extraordinaire, Ben Stiller? While Jack Black may retain a small ounce or two of comedic credibility after this film's release, Stiller is simply digging his own theatrical grave deeper and deeper. This year's Along Came Polly should have never have come along at all and Starsky & Hutch might have seen better times had Stiller not chosen to star in it. And with this third film in one year (but we're not done as Stiller has two more films due out this year), Stiller again proves that it should be a crime for anybody to allow him time in front of the camera.

He is possibly the most egregious example of an actor who plays the same exact role in every single film. The only variable in Stiller's films is his accent. He either uses the vocal insanity he perfected for Zoolander (which he also used in Starsky & Hutch and will also use in the forthcoming Dodgeball) or he uses his normal voice. Thankfully, Envy is a film where he uses his "normal" voice, but the only problem is that he's still playing Ben Stiller. Possibly the only film in which Stiller's talents might have found appreciation was in his performance in 2001's The Royal Tenenbaums. That film simply "fit" Stiller's regular character.

But more than the fact that Stiller's playing himself in this film yet again, the comedy and jokes are just blatantly unfunny. One must accept the fact that the movie is one rather long and over-extended fart joke (because let's face it: the film's entire focus is on a substance called, "Vapoorize," a spray that causes dog excrement to disappear), but can a one-track film that harbors one real joke garner an audience's interest for one-hundred minutes? If you wear a watch while viewing this film, it's certain you'll glance at it around thirty minutes into it, and realize with dismay that there's still sixty minutes of fart jokes to come.

It is interesting to note that while Ben Stiller fails on so many levels to create an interesting performance out of his envious character, Christopher Walken, also playing the same weirdo dude he plays in nearly every film actually gets away with it. Like Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino, Walken's character - the nutcase he plays in every film - is an entertaining personality. Walken's performances can usually be rated on a scale of one to ten concerning how insane his character is, and fortunately for the audience, Walken's "J-Man" is a ten. But it's difficult to recommend a film to others based solely on the performance on one supporting character. Especially when the lead roles aren't the best work of their performers.

The question that must be asked is whether Ben Stiller simply picks deficient feature film material or whether it is his lack of talent that has the power to turn any script into an unappealing and brainless performance. With the lack of real entertainment coming from the supporting cast and from Stiller's co-stars, it's probably that it's a combination of Stiller's hammy acting and poorly written dialogue. While the idea itself seems like it might potentially harbor a plethora of brainless and entertaining low-brow jokes, the jokes just don't come through with any real ingenuity. Even low-brow humor must be quick witted and whimsical if it is to entertain even the most ardent supporters of fart joke infused movies.

In what could only be labeled irony by the fates, combustible actor Jack Black actually plays his character nearly straight and series opposite Stiller's neurotic insanity. Black performs must more convincingly when he allows his true nature to shine through (think High Fidelity). When he's not going for a laugh, it's not always easy to believe the sincerity of his performance. Black's character is an energetic personality, but too often it's "more of the same" regarding the jokes.

This film just isn't worth two hours of your life. After viewing the film, you'll be disappointed that you've lost those two precious hours to a film with little to no redeeming qualities. While the technical aspects of the film, such as editing and cinematography, are handled with ease, a film cannot survive on these elements alone. Envy is a film that wanders around aimlessly for most of its one-hundred minutes, and involves comedy that has little direction and creativity from its writer and director (Steve Adams and Barry Levinson, respectively), and is probably best viewed in the comfort of one's easy chair with the ever important television remote nearby (handy for when you need to fast-forward through any scene that doesn't showcase Christopher Walken).

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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