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Directed by Barry Levinson.
Written by Steve Adams.
Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Rachel Weisz and Christopher Walken.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  5/10/04


You had a sneaking suspicion from watching the trailer that "Envy" was not about to win the Oscar for Best Picture, but you always come in thinking

"Maybe the trailer wasn't that good, but the movie can't be THAT bad..."

and then you leave the theater angry as all get out because the flick is such stinking dogshit.

And, even in a movie that is exactly ABOUT dogshit, "Envy" has only one funny thing about it--a joke early in the film about the dessert flan.  Besides that, it was so quiet in my theater that I was almost hoping that somebody's cell phone would ring, just to break up the monotony.

Ben Stiller--I told you that overexposure would be bad for your career--is listless as 3M production manager Tim Dingman, who lives with his wife (Rachel Weisz) and two kids in a modest single-family home somewhere in the 'burbs.  His across-the-street neighbor, Nick (Jack Black), has a wife (Amy Poehler), two kids, and a whole headful of dreams and ambitions that have never been played out...until he comes up with an idea:  inventing a spray that somehow makes dog poo evaporate, eliminating the need for a pooper scooper the world over.  Nick, Tim's best friend, gives Tim the chance to partner with him on his dream, but Tim thinks the idea is--you guessed it--dogshit, so he declines the offer...and, two scenes and 18 months later, Nick is a multibillionaire, and worse, he has built his empire in the same lot where his old house used to be, so each day that Tim leaves to go to work, he has to suffer through seeing his best friend rich, while he has remained poor.

"Poor" is an interesting descriptor for "Envy", because worse that the fact that neither Stiller nor Black seems able to provide us with any physical humor is the fact that Barry Levinson, who directed this mess, may have officially confirmed that his greatness as a director has ended.  The man that gave us "Diner", "Rain Man", "Good Morning Vietnam" and "The Natural" hasn't made a decent movie in seven years ("Wag the Dog"), and if "Envy" was the man's swan song, I really do hurt for him.  Creativity is nowhere to be found in "Envy", and while some of that is the horrific script, so many of the sequences found in this film--from the blah credits sequence to the blah family scenes to the blah ending to the blah Christopher Walken, completely nullified by the direction here--completely belong to Levinson.

When I left the theater, I really was thinking about "Gerry", maybe the worst film of the last five years, and comparing it to "Envy."  We now have a frontrunner for worst film of the year!!

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09