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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
from Film Forum, 05/06/04

Ben Stiller stars in Envy … his third comedy in six months (and there's another one, Dodgeball, right around the corner.) Perhaps he should take a break. This one's receiving the same kind of disparaging remarks that greeted his last bomb—Duplex. Not even School of Rock star Jack Black, co-star Christopher Walken, or acclaimed director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam) can save this botched affair.

The movie traces the relationship of two neighbors, Tim (Stiller) and Nick (Black), after one of them becomes an instant success off of a get-rich-quick scheme. Nick's invention is called "the Vapoorizer," a device that immediately and mysteriously "vapoorizes" canine waste. You can imagine the ways that detail plays into mainstream critics' negative reviews of the film, some of which declare this as "one of the worst comedies" in recent memory.

Religious press critics agree—the film stinks.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "Though one would naturally assume that a tag team of Stiller and Black would give one's funny bone a good work out, don't worry: There is little chance that your laugh muscles will break a sweat, let alone bust a gut."

Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter) says, "The premise is one of the best I can remember in a film. The first hour tries and occasionally delivers a few laughs, but then the story loses momentum and the filmmakers lose faith in their parody, suddenly relying on the now common staple of movie comedy—crudity. Levinson … allows the film to drag, making it seem much longer than it really is."

Evan D. Baltz (Christian Spotlight) admits that the film made him struggle with envy … a very specific kind of envy: "I found myself being very envious of the other people coming into the theatre who were going to see other movies. If only I could be them, I thought. I was also envious of the other members of my group who saw the screening with me—envious that they walked out of the movie about 25 minutes into it and received their money back. If only I could have done the same."

Steven Isaac (Plugged In) goes easier on the film. "This broad-stroke, goofy—sometimes plodding—throwback comedy blends the down-home wackiness of such '80s classics as The Great Outdoors and The Money Pit with Ben Stiller's hip turn in 2000's Meet the Parents." He calls it "a quirky morality tale" that "marks the path from petty jealousy to retaliation to guilt to confession to reconciliation."

from Film Forum, 05/13/04

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) saw Envy in a not-so-crowded theatre and says, "The emotion it evoked from the few who saw it was nowhere near envy. It was closer to boredom. The talent assembled for the film is impressive and should have resulted in something more entertaining than what we get."

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