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Movie Review

Green. Not behind the ears. Green with envy. Tim Dingman might as well be a Martian he's so green. Why? His best friend and neighbor, Nick, has become an overnight billionaire entrepreneur and he's still stuck making sandpaper at 3M.

It happened like this: Nick comes up with an idea to use chemicals to "magically" evaporate dog poo. Tim thinks he's crazy, so when it comes down to forking over a couple grand to get in on the ground floor, he politely—and bemusedly—declines. Naturally, Nick's impossible invention works perfectly and soon "Vapoorize" is flying off store shelves coast to coast.

Loath to leave his blue collar neighborhood and his best friend behind, but flush with more cash—and gold-plated decorating ideas—than Donald Trump, Nick demolishes his cul-de-sac abode and erects in its place a mansion of Graceland proportions. He never exactly tries to rub his wealth in Tim's face, but just the sight of his new digs and the constant stream of friendly gifts flowing from across the street serve as red-hot reminders to Tim and his wife, Debbie, that they missed out on the biggest opportunity of their lives. Rank envy is knocking at the door.

Positive Elements

Tim lashes out at Nick when fortune visits his friend without stopping over at his own house. But, in the words of star Ben Stiller, "What's really eating away at him is that it's his own fault. He had every opportunity to get in on the deal, so there's that constant nagging thought of 'If only I had made that one decision.'" We all make lame-brained decisions in our lives, and we all wish we could have done a few things differently (anybody who had the opportunity to buy early editions of Microsoft stock and didn't certainly knows the feeling), so Tim's self-loathing and acting out will be easy to identify with. What's positive, though, is that the film goes past those feelings, and by showing us how not to act, shows us how to act when things don't go our way.

Tim's envy makes him do things he would never otherwise do. (A lesson all by itself.) And when he does things to try to hurt Nick, he quickly becomes consumed with the guilt of his actions. [Spoiler Warning] Then, finally breaking down and confessing to Nick his feelings and his activities, he finds release and forgiveness. (A string of scripture passages give backbone to the extent of jealousy's natural consequences. They include Proverbs 14:30, 27:4; Ecclesiastes 4:4; Romans 1:29, 13:13; Titus 3:3; James 3:14-16; 1 Peter 2:1.)

While Tim squirms in this stew of misdirected rage, Nick unwittingly heaps burning coals on his head (Proverbs 25:21-22) by showering him with gifts and continued unflinching friendship. Nick refuses to turn his back on his "poor" neighbors just because he won the infomercial lottery.

Woven into the film is a rambling song sung by Dan Navarro that, despite including a crude profanity, narrates the story while putting man's lingering love affair with envy and strife into tangible terms.

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Fired up by the prospect of becoming wealthy, Debbie gets liposuction done and struts her "new" stuff for her husband. (She's wearing a slinky, lacy bodysuit of sorts.) Then she grabs Tim and pulls him down with her in Nick's laundry room, begging him to "do it" right then and there. When Nick shows up in the doorway—as he was bound to—a sight gag hints at oral sex.

In Rome, Nick and Tim share a hot tub with a sexually obsessed man they're trying to do business with. In Italian (his words are translated by an assistant) he rambles on about sizes of sexual anatomy. A couple makes out in a car. A stone statue of a nude woman is seen.

Violent Content

On two separate occasions randomly shot arrows strike a horse and a man. The horse falls over dead and is pushed into a pit and buried. (Later, the animal is exhumed, wrapped in a tarp and tied on top of a van.) The man—who survives—staggers around for some time with the projectile stuck in his back before it's wrenched free. A speeding carousel flings Tim and Nick to the ground before it explodes.

Crude or Profane Language

Envy has a lot to do with dog doo-doo, so—naturally—its characters take great pleasure in trotting out the s-word. It's used nearly 30 times as both a descriptor and an exclamation. (It's also seen written on placards.) The f-word is uttered once. God's name is interjected at least as many times as the s-word, and is combined with "d--n."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Depressed about losing his family and his job, Tim heads for a tavern and tells the bartender to serve him whatever he wants to. What he gets is a fruity, tropical concoction, but he drinks pineapple-full after pineapple-full until he's all but obliterated. (It's at the bar that he gets some really terrible advice about how to handle his feelings of jealousy.) Then he goes home and polishes off a bottle of wine. Elsewhere, wine is served several times, as is champagne.

Other Negative Elements

The camera zooms in for quite a few close-ups of excrement to demonstrate Vapoorize. A frequent topic of conversation is how the product works and where the poo goes when it evaporates.

It's played for laughs when a child grows frustrated over not being able to hit the ball during a T-ball game. He throws his bat and attacks the tee.


This broad-stroke, goofy—sometimes plodding—throwback comedy blends the down-home wackiness of such '80s classics as The Great Outdoors and The Money Pit with Ben Stiller's hip turn in 2000's Meet the Parents. Director and producer Barry Levinson allows his narrative to pound down a few rabbit trails, but none seem to detract too much from his final destination. And what is that destination? A quirky morality tale about ... envy. Poking fun at the whole cable-TV infomercial craze along the way ("I'm sure if you took the infomercial in our movie and put it on television, people would be calling in," says Levinson), Envy marks the path from petty jealousy to retaliation to guilt to confession to reconciliation. It also mauls our cultural obsession with wealth. "No explosions, no car chases, no shoot-outs to be found," sings Navarro, "just a simple tale of envy/Twern't nothin' too profound ... tellin' the truth will set you free."

These pearls of wisdom, unfortunately, get a little muddy. Using Nick's invention as license, scriptwriters let loose a torrent of profanity. Tim's drunkenness is supposed to be funny. Sexual conversations and actions aren't rampant, but they are spicy. And an arrow sticking out of a man's back is callously used as an antidote for blackmail. That's the truth about Envy.

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Ben Stiller as Tim Dingman; Jack Black as Nick Vanderpark; Rachel Weisz as Debbie Dingman; Amy Poehler as Natalie Vanderpark; Christopher Walken as J-Man


Barry Levinson ( )


Columbia Pictures



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Steven Isaac

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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