Film Reviews


By • Apr 30th, 2004 •

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DreamWorks Pictures and Columbia Pictures present in association with Castle Rock Entertainment a Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures production / A Barry Levinson film
Running time — 99 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

QUOTE: Pity, not envy.

Stiller, the busiest man in show business, delivers another unfunny comedy. lists seven Ben Stiller movies for 2004! In the future, all movies will star Ben Stiller. The Stiller Juggernaut recognizes no boundaries. Ben, have you thought about starring on Broadway in “The Producers”? I know there is some singing involved, but that can’t stop you.

ENVY must have been a good “pitch,” but no one will be jealous of this comedy. The emotion that comes to mind is “pity.”

Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller) and Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black) are best friends, live across the street from each other, and work together at a sandpaper factory. Dingman is a hard worker with two young children. Vanderpark is also a family man but is a daydreamer who thinks up a terrific invention: evaporating dog poop with a mysterious spray. He asks Dingman for $2000 for a 50% partnership. Dingman thinks the idea is ridiculous and declines to participate.

The invention, Vapooprizer, is a fantastic success. Instead of bringing in his best friend as a CEO or whatever, Vanderpark and his wife spend all their time building a palace with a merry-go-round and bowling alley directly where their old house once stood. In perfect delusionary fashion, Natalie Vanderpark (Amy Poehler) decides to run for Congress.

Dingman’s wife Debbie (Rachel Weisz) is understandably upset. When Dingman shouts at his boss, he is fired. He meets the nutty J-Man (Christopher Walken) who encourages him to disrupt Vanderpark’s good fortune.

What happened here? The setup is merely passable, but we go along with it. The movie collapses because Dingman is really a nice guy. He is not going to actually sabotage his goofy, happy-go-lucky friend. The troublemaking is passed off to the J-Man. Now the movie is all about the J-Man, what he wants, and how he will take advantage of Dingman’s envy. But the J-Man is not the star of the movie, so we are left with an inadequate second act. Staying away from DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, J-Man only peripherally intrudes on Dingman’s family. Wouldn’t it have been more fun if the J-Man had become Vanderpark’s houseguest? But this would have meant a more textured screenplay instead of a fast paycheck for the writer, director, and stars.

No matter how many faces Stiller makes, or contractual close-ups he gets, it is Walken you want to see more of. Black, after his huge THE SCHOOL OF ROCK success, tries not to repeat himself, so what can he do with this dumb part? Leaving director Barry Levinson to hone an interesting character was a mistake.

Tim Dingman: Ben Stiller
Nick Vanderpark: Jack Black
Debbie Dingman: Rachel Weisz
Natalie Vanderpark: Amy Poehler
J-Man: Christopher Walken

Director: Barry Levinson
Producers: Barry Levinson, Paula Weinstein
Screenwriter: Steve Adams
Executive producer: Mary McLaglen
Director of photography: Tim Maurice-Jones
Production designer: Victor Kempster
Editors: Stu Linder, Blair Daily
Costume designer: Gloria Gresham
Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh

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One Response »

  1. I find this movie fascinating. It wasn’t until I watched it as an adult that i realized walken’s charatcer J-man doesnt exist, and is only a personification of Dingman”s Envy. Very subtle in certain ways, but I can’t believe I didn’t get it sooner. Jealousy-Man nearly tears apart Dingman’s life 😉

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