Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller) and Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black) have been best friends neighbors and co-workers for many years and while the stable Tim tries his best he can't convince the dreamer Nick to give up his hare-brained get-rich-quick schemes. Good thing because one of Nick's ideas--a spray called Vapoorizer that literally makes dog poop and other kinds of excrement disappear--actually succeeds making Nick like crazy rich. Of course Tim had an opportunity to go in on the deal at inception but pooh-poohed (pun intended) the whole thing. D'oh! Tim seethes with envy as he watches his friend's wealth grow to outrageous proportions--and is fueled even further by a wildcard--an oddball drifter (Christopher Walken) Tim meets in a bar who imposes himself in the situation. Soon Tim's life (and the script) is careening wildly out of control and he has to make peace with his friend--and himself--before he can get it back on track.
There's always a risk when you combine two comic talents in the same movie--and unfortunately the Stiller/Black pairing doesn't make the cut. Granted Stiller has proven that he is good as a duo but usually only with Owen Wilson (Zoolander Starsky & Hutch) or a bevy of leading ladies including Cameron Diaz (There's Something About Mary) and Jennifer Aniston (Along Came Polly) while Black seems to be best when left to his own devices either as the supporting player (High Fidelity Orange County) or leading man (School of Rock). The actors never really get to work their particular brand of magic with Black mostly suppressing his wildly eccentric ways and Stiller nauseatingly overextending his manic ones.Envy's supporting cast fare a bit better including the always weird Walken as the wacky drifter J-Man as well as Rachel Weisz (Runaway Jury) stretching her comic wings and Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler as Tim's wife and Nick's wife respectively.
Whenever a film has been sitting on the shelf for over two years it usually spells trouble. Based on a pitch by Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David (imagine that development meeting) newcomer Steve Adam's script initially hits the right notes--and under the guidance of director Barry Levinson the premise is cleverly set up. The film even has a fair share of laugh-out-loud moments including Nick's detailed observation that his hand is a "freakish sidekick"; J-Man's effort to get Tim to open up: "Let it tumble out like circus freaks"; Tim's only funny meltdown "I'm just a little man who doesn't like flan"; and the ever-present question on everyone's mind "Where does the poo go?" There is even a hilarious narrative song running throughout the film á la There's Something About Mary. But once the envious feelings reaches a fever pitch that quirkiness goes out the door. You want the ca-ca to hit the fan you expect it to but alas that is not the case. The film ends with a flush leaving a tidy bowl and you wondering why you sat through this crap.