Envy (2004)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy  |   Release Date - Apr 30, 2004 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - Australia , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Karl Williams

A comedic debacle on the order of director Barry Levinson's previous misfires Toys (1992) and An Everlasting Piece (2000), the resounding flop Envy (2004) will hopefully be enough to convince the otherwise gifted filmmaker that three strikes means he's out of the comedy genre. Glimpses of the underlying hilarity in what might have been a great original screenplay by Steve Adams are not enough to sustain humor in a project that strikes a bizarre tone somewhere between fantasy and reality, never quite settling the issue of whether the plot is set in the real world or some off-kilter fourth dimension. Rachel Weisz and Amy Poehler are utterly wasted in one-note, unfunny supporting roles, but the real egregiousness is saved for Ben Stiller and Jack Black, two very amusing performers whose pairing promises hilarity that never ensues, maybe because they're playing each other's parts. Christopher Walken is woefully miscast as a hippie scam artist, but the real fault here lies squarely with the director, who placed these actors in these roles, after all, and who selected a sunny, candy-coated look and carnival-like feel, which are supposed to contrast the story's dark undertones but instead just work against them.