Every year, one billion (exactly one billion) dumb movies get made that are either remakes or reboots or in some other way derivative of a thing that has been done before. Everyone knows that. And so it is easy to complain about Hollywood as a Lukewarm Rehash Factory, pumping out the Lukewarm Rehashes like it is their job (because it is their job). But there is another type of movie that Hollywood puts out that might be even more dangerous (haha, dangerous) and pernicious (haha, pernicious), and that is the movie that THINKS it has an interesting idea behind it, but doesn’t. These movies are, of course, the bread and butter of The Hunt, because they combine being awful with being pretentious and misguided. What a combination! Most of the movies we have discussed have been some variation on this theme, but few of them have actually taken their title from the Seven Deadly Sins, only to be a half-baked screwball garbage comedy about dog shit.
Envy, however, is just such a movie.
Envy is about two “best friends,” Jack Black and Ben Stiller, who both have wives and children and tract houses and dogs. They also both have middle-management jobs at the 3M factory (ENOUGH OF THIS EGREGIOUS PRODUCT PLACEMENT, HOLLYWOOD!). Of course, they’re not exactly the same: Ben Stiller is a buttoned-down employee man, while Jack Black is more of a dreamer. We know that because at one point early in the movie, Ben Stiller says to Jack Black “you are a dreamer.” Thank you for helping to define Jack Black’s character, Ben Stiller’s character! One day, on the way home from work, Ben Stiller and Jack Black see a man cleaning up his dog’s poop, and Jack Black has an idea: what if you created a spray can that when you sprayed it on dog poop, the dog poop disappeared. Ben Stiller is pretty dismissive of this idea, because what would you actually put in the spray can? And also things don’t just disappear? They have to go somewhere? Jack Black ignores his concerns. AND SO DOES THE MOVIE.
Maybe this movie is actually brilliant and is a complicated commentary about itself! (Nope, it is just shit.)
Pretty quickly, Jack Black has invented a spray can that when you spray it on dog poop, the dog poop disappears. He had tried to get Ben Stiller to help invest in his new company for just $2,000, but Ben Stiller refused, and now Jack Black is so rich it’s crazy. Of course, he doesn’t want to move away from his best friend, so he just tears down his old tract house and builds a giant mansion. And fills it with pinball machines and ponies. His wife (played by Amy Poehler, but let’s pretend she isn’t) is going to run for state senate? And now Ben Stiller is so mad!
His friend is so rich! And he is so poor! Well, he is not that poor, because he is still building a pool in his backyard? But I guess he is not Michael Jackson Nightmareland Ranch rich. Oh, also his wife (Rachel Weisz) is mad because she hates having a husband who is so poor now that she sees how some husbands are rich. And his kid hates him because one time they were eating dinner at Jack Black’s house and he got to eat flan? So his wife and kid leave. And also he loses his job because he screams in his boss’s face because he’s an idiot. You know how it is when your friend gets rich off of a nonsensical make-believe shit-based product and then you lose everything. Anyway, Ben Stiller, distraught, gets drunk at a bar and makes friends with Christoper Walken. OH BOY, HERE WE GO!
Ben Stiller ends up shooting Jack Black’s prized horse with an arrow (don’t ask), but he lies about it, and he also buries it in the swimming pool hole in his yard (convenient). Then Jack Black offers a reward for his horse, so Ben Stiller and Christopher Walken decide to move the horse from the swimming pool hole somewhere that they can “find” it and collect the reward money. Good plan, guys! Perfect plan, really. But then they lose the horse (don’t ask). And then Jack Black–who really has been nothing but generous and kind to Ben Stiller throughout–makes Ben Stiller a partner in his poop can business (it is called the Va-POO-Rizer, and this movie cost millions of dollars to make). So now Ben Stiller and his shitty wife are rich, which is all they ever wanted in their whole lives. But Christopher Walken sees Ben Stiller on the news (right) and blackmails him. Ben Stiller is going to come clean to Jack Black about the whole killing-his-horse-and-then-lying-about-it-and-also-trying-to-scam-his-friend-out-of-the-reward-money thing, but instead ends up shooting Christopher Walken in the back (don’t ask). But then he confesses to Jack Black anyway, and Jack Black is like, Oh well.
THESE DRAMATIC STAKES ARE ALMOST TOO HIGH IF ANYTHING.
Then the EPA discovers that the poop doesn’t exactly disappear when it is sprayed, but it DOES turn into a poison that seeps into the ground, and it was actually poisoned apples that killed the horse (oh phew?) but so all their dreams come crashing down around their heads and both Ben Stiller and Jack Black lose all of their zoot suits, or whatever. But at the very last second, Ben Stiller has an idea (NOW WHO IS THE DREAMER, HUH?) and the movie ends with their newest infomercial for their newest product, which we are told is going to make them rich: Pocket Flan. It is flan in a tube. HOPEFULLY IT COMES IN BULLET FLAVOR!
Apology accepted, Amy Poehler.
The thing is, a movie about two friends struggling with the changes wealth brings could totally be interesting and maybe even funny. That is a real thing! And envy as a destructive emotion is totally relatable. Who has not been envious at some point in their lives? No one has not been. But this movie’s depiction of wealth makes it seem like money turns us all into 14-year-old retards. And blind 14-year-old retards at that:
What is that all about?
Moreover, Ben Stiller’s character sucks! He is an asshole from the very beginning, even when Jack Black is (shudder) poor. He’s rude, and dismissive, and condescending. When his friend gets rich he is rude, venal, spiteful, and mean. So fuck him! I guess since this movie was so lazily written, it was just easier to have him start off as a jerk, that way when his friend got rich, they didn’t have to worry about how to show him struggling with the wealth inequality. “Just make him yell a little louder.” It is hard when a movie doesn’t have anyone to root for, but it is gross when a movie has everyone to root against. Jack Black was actually OK, somehow, I guess, but, like, even Rachel Weisz is just so fucking infuriating. She leaves her husband because she can’t stand how not rich he is? And at one point, when they do get rich, she demands that he not be honest and apologize to his best friend because then they might not be rich anymore? Ugh! You should both divorce each other. Out of an airplane. Can you divorce someone out of an airplane? That barely makes sense, and yet I think it makes THE MOST sense.
And do not even get me started on Va-POO-Rize and Pocket Flan. Well, OK, get me started. WHAT ON EARTH? I mean, I know that it is hard to think of fake inventions that are both “funny” and “realistic” but if you can’t do it then maybe don’t make your whole movie be about them. No one forced Barry Levinson to make a big budget movies centered around fake inventions. There is a scene soon after Jack Black gets rich where we are first introduced to flan, and everyone makes a really big deal about it. And it’s like, what? Why is everyone making such a big deal about flan? And then at the end of the movie they are like BOOM! It’s just storytelling at its best. You insert a really awkward detail that seems forced and nonsensical, and then an hour and a half later you turn it into a horrible joke that makes people want to die. WHO WROTE THIS MOVIE, O’HENRY?
Of course, it’s much easier to watch Envy from the vantage point of 2010, when we know we are now safe. Can you imagine watching this back in 2004 (was it really only 2004? Yikes. So much for the SO-CALLED “lessons of 9/11″) and having to worry that there were going to be SIX sequels to this shit? Even the 6% on rottentomatoes would not have made me feel safe. It is only time that has healed these wounds. Time, and an endless procession of even worse big budget comedies. Now say thank you to Mr. Paul Blart and go to bed, Envy.