Tim and Nick are best friends, neighbors and co-workers, whose equal footing is suddenly tripped up when one of Nick's hare-brained get-rich-quick schemes actually succeeds: the Vaporizer, a spray that literally makes dog poop, or any other kind for that matter, evaporate into thin air--to where, exactly, is anyone's guess. Tim, who had scoffed at Nick's idea and passed on an opportunity to get in on the deal, can only watch as Nick's fortune--and Tim's own envy--grow to equally outrageous proportions. When the flames of jealousy are fanned by an oddball drifter who imposes himself into the situation, Tim's life careens wildly out of control, taking Nick's with it.
Jack Black, riding on the success of "The School of Rock," is Nick Vanderpark, a babyish instant zillionaire thanks to his patenting of Vapoorize, an aerosol spray that when applied to dog feces (or any other kind) makes them evaporate. Ben Stiller is his best friend, Tim, who lives across the street and stews in jealousy of his pal's wealth. The movie gets laughs from Nick's grotesquely extravagant lifestyle. But instead of honestly confronting the subject of wealth and Schadenfreude and the consumer culture, not to mention the Swiftian implications of the miracle product that makes Nick rich, it goes on silly farcical tangents that run out of steam. One involves the J-Man (Christopher Walken), a mysterious and slightly sinister drifter who appoints himself Tim's cynical adviser. The movie, which plays like Barry Levinson's attempt to match the Farrelly Brother in adolescent goofiness, has its laughs. But it's also afraid of itself, as though it decided its chosen subject was too serious for comedy. — Stephen Holden
2004-04-30 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Envy