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Published on June 19th, 2008 | by simeon

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Envy

Of the seven deadly sins, Pride is often singled out as the one that most often leads to dismay. Ah, but what about Pride’s cousin Envy? often forgotten amongst the more lavish sins such as lust, avarice, and anger, envy is often the gateway sin that leads to bigger downfalls in life.

In the new film “Envy”, director Barry Levinson introduces us to Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller), and his best friend Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black). The two friends live across from one another in a comfy suburb and work at a local manufacturing plant. Tim is the focused one of the pair who is happy for what he has and looks forward to moving up the company ladder. Nick on the other hand, is a dreamer who while solid in his reviews is always low in the area of focus. Nick is a dreamer who is always looking for a new way to come up with the next great invention.

One day, Nick gets the idea to make a spray to cause pet waste to vanish. Coining the phrase “Vapoorize”, Nick enlists the help of a person from work and they set out to accomplish the task despites Tim’s constant efforts to get Nick to abandon his dream and return to his senses, and even refuses Nick’s offer to invest $2000.00 to become a partner.

Soon after Nick has a successful test of his invention and in no time is rich beyond his wildest dreams. Flash forward 18 months and Nick has remained in the same suburb but has built a lavish mansion complete with a carousel and every trapping of success.

Despite his continued friendship and generous gifts from Nick, Tim has been on a slow burn and his wife Debbie (Rachael Weisz), does not let him forget that all this could be theirs as well if Tim would only have invested in the idea.

Tim eventually reaches a boiling point and loses his job and family as his focus on what he does not have has completely consumed him. Into the picture comes a drifter known as J-Man (Christopher Walken), who mentors Tim on ways to knock Nick down a peg or two and regain what he has lost. Naturally things do not go as planned and Tim soon finds himself scrambling from one crazy situation to another as he attempts to recover from the trouble his envy has wrought.

Despite the presence of Stiller and Black the film seems to be unsure if it wants to be a comedy, a black comedy, or a social commentary. It seems as if Director Levinson attempted to do all three and ended up failing miserably. Walken does some nice work in his role but the comedic situations that the film is rife with never come to fruition and those that do are never explored to their maximum potential. There is a funny scene involving a horse and Stiller is great as the regular guy who gets in over his head. For 2 minutes you think that the film is about to turn the corner and become a series of madcap adventures. Instead, the brakes are applied and the film never again reaches this kind of potential.

Stiller and Black have some nice moments but they are woefully restrained and not allowed to bust out with the over the top energy and crazy brilliance that have made past films so successful. They make a good team and it would have been nice to have seen “Envy” be a comedic showcase instead of a rudderless ship lacking direction that makes you wish that they had sprayed Vapoorize on the print and saved great talent like Black and Stiller from being wasted.

2.5 stars out of 5


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