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"Christopher Walken is way way out in this one.  He's a caricature of himself.  It's almost like he's doing an impression of someone doing an impression of him.  It's a joy to listen to him deliver his lines in a way that only he can.  He seems to radiate a genuine passion in the role, and you won't get enough of him on screen."



The Masked Reviewer

Jack Black and Ben Stiller -- TOGETHER?  Why, it must be the funniest movie ever made?  Mustn't it?  Hmm?  Mustn't it?

Did the Masked Reviewer mention that it was directed by Barry Levinson, who you may remember from such films as Good Morning Vietnam, Rainman, Bugsy, Wag the Dog and Bandits?  Sure, none of those were comedies, but it doesn't take a funny man to make a funny movie, does it?

Hey, it was written by Steve Adams who you may remember from...well...you probably won't remember him.  He's not really written anything.  He did write for "Fridays", that late-night "Saturday Night Live" rip-off that ran from 1980-1982 ("no, it's not a rip-off!  They're on Saturday.  We're on Friday."  Okay  Whatever).

So, it should be funny.  It ought to be funny.  All signs point to: funny.  And yet, the Masked Reviewer will sum it up this way: anyone who sees it will Envy anyone who didn't.

Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement.  It's not terrible.  It's not the least funny comedy you'll see.  There are some good laughs.  In fact, there are a few really funny moments.  But, they're too few and far between.  Envy is unusual in that the problem isn't that the filmmakers tried too hard, throwing in bad jokes...the problem is that they just didn't seem to try much of anything.  There'd be a good laugh or an amusing scene, followed by lots of nothing.  That does not good comedy make.

Ben Stiller plays the high-strung, hard working, ready-to-pop guy.  It's good to see Ben Stiller stretching his acting limits.  We haven't seen this kind of performance since every other film he's ever done.  But that's okay...he's built a career on that stereotype, and he's great at it.  Similarly, Jack Black plays the role that Jack Black always plays: crass, crude, but passionate and sweet and cuddly on the inside. 

Their pairing seems like a good financial decision (here's the pitch meeting: "Okay, Jack Black and Ben Stiller in a movie where Jack Black is goofy and Ben Stiller freaks out a lot, and a lot of bad things happen"). The problem (well, let's not limit ourselves, shall we?  A problem..) is that when they're together on screen, there doesn't seem to be much chemistry.  They're supposed to be best friends.  That never comes through well.  Aside from that, each scene seems to be structured to get a laugh for either Jack Black or Ben Stiller, but not both.  No banter, no back-and-forth...that would've been nice.

The movie features music by a guy who sounds a bit like a guy trying to sound like Randy Newman.  He sings songs about envy and how it's a bad thing and how it can cause problems.  Those songs play while we see Ben Stiller sitting around, looking upset about the situation that was brought about by his envy.  The songs are intended, one imagines, to be funny, but they fall flat much more often than not.  They wind up being kind of preachy in a pointless way.

The story is okay, but unfolds predictably. 

The acting, other than Ben Stiller and Jack Black, is fine across the board: Rachel Weisz and Amy Poehler are amusing and fine.  The act that steals the show, however, belongs to Christopher Walken.  Over his last few movies, Christopher Walken has cultivated an increasingly wacky persona that he seems bent on topping in each subsequent film.  Despite any other flaws in the movie (and there are many), if you are a Walken fan, this is almost a must-see.  Certainly a must-rent on DVD, but Christopher Walken is way way out in this one.  He's a caricature of himself.  It's almost like he's doing an impression of someone doing an impression of him.  It's a joy to listen to him deliver his lines in a way that only he can.  He seems to radiate a genuine passion in the role, and you won't get enough of him on screen.  That is, if you like Christopher Walken.  If you don't care for him, you may just watch and shake your head sadly, wondering what happened to the actor from The Deer Hunter.  He has developed a kind of cult following and those fans won't be disappointed in his performance.  His character's name is "J-Man", if that gives you any indication.

In fact, Jack Black and Ben Stiller are good...the laughs that this movie offers are provided by skillful comedic acting, not by great direction or writing.  But they had so little to work with that their fans may feel a bit let down.  There are a few solid laughs, but other than Christopher Walken (who is memorable, whether you like him or not) you may come away wondering why they bothered to make this movie.  Ben Stiller and Jack Black aren't a great match for future comedy duo hall of fame. 

This only gets a mediocre rating thanks to Christopher Walken.  Without him, this would be a definite frowny mask.  You should see this if you're a HUGE Ben Stiller or Jack Black fan, but if you just like them on occasion, wait for the DVD.  It's barely so-so.


Expectation from the Title: A movie about Green-Eyed Penis Monsters

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Christopher Walken adds class and dignity to the film.

The Pros: Christopher Walken is ultra-nutty and wacky and wonderful.  There are a couple of very good laughs, but they are rare pearls in a sea of sub-par mediocrity.

The Cons: A sea of sub-par mediocrity.  Not enough funny.  They didn't even seem to try to make things funny a lot of the time. 


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