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Movies You Aught Not Watch: Envy

by on March 24, 2010
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Movies You Aught Not Watch is Nick Rogers’ weekly, alphabetical look back at the 52 worst films of 2000-2009.

Rated PG-13

“Envy is a funny, funny thing,” says a character in 2004’s “Envy,” although not as accurate comment on the film. Those would be lines like, “Stupid, crappy, stupid, stupid thing,” or the answer to “Envy’s” central question: Where did the turds go?

A satire with no point, “Envy” equaled John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s “Neighbors” as a can’t-miss comic pairing that crashed and burned. Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Christopher Walken, Rachel Weisz and Amy Poehler should’ve spotted the bad juju of a script that included a drearily overlong scene of a beaten dead horse.

Tougher still was watching once-great director Barry Levinson officially become a hack on Joel Schumacher’s level, unable to capitalize on the talents of any performer. Even Walken’s daffy, dulcet-toned stream of consciousness, as the long-haired J-Man, could easily be tuned out after two minutes without missing a punchline. (He’d forgive Levinson and make “Man of the Year.”)

Stiller and Black are neighbors, co-workers and friends whose bond is tested when Black invents Va-Poo-Rize — a spray that mysteriously makes turds disappear — and Stiller, who’d dismissed the idea, flails while Black flourishes.

Like many Zeroes films, it’s one in which Charlie Kaufman could’ve uncovered true, human smugness. Instead, Black and Stiller exaggerate what works about their styles to the point of annoyance, and the usually reliable composer Mark Mothersbaugh writes a series of nerve-grating, narrative-propelling songs. Where’s the old man with the rifle from “There’s Something About Mary” to kill the narrating troubadour in this Ben Stiller movie?