Monday, February 21, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #45: Envy

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more information about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

I vividly remember the Envy trailer. My family was at some movie or another in late 2003 and lo and behold, a preview was shown to us for this supposedly delightful offbeat comedy starring a reliable pre-Fockers Ben Stiller and comedy's newest rising star, Jack Black. I had been a disciple of Black's for several years via Tenacious D at that point and ever since School of Rock hit it big, I was incredibly eager for him to follow up with more starring roles in Hollywood (my God, what have I done?!!!).

I can explicitly recall my mother turning to me and saying something along the lines of "That looks so funny!" or "I can't wait to see that!". I suppose the hook for the movie was pretty good at the time, Jack Black invents a spray product that dissolves dog shit: the Vapoorizer. People were damn near rolling in the aisles when that joke came in the trailer, and yes, that's a pretty good joke coming out of nowhere. I mean, dogs poop a lot! Ha ha ha!

But months passed and yet Envy never came out. In those simpler times, I had less of an understanding of how movies are produced. It had never occurred to me that if a film is advertised and isn't released within, oh let's say a calender year, it bodes ill for the quality of said movie. It turns out, Envy had been in the can since 2002 but was kept under wraps because it was so bad. Only Jack Black's rise to stardom coaxed it out from the vaults at Dreamworks, Hobgoblin style. The movie died such an ignoble death at the box office due to the studio's cheap-as-hell promotional campaign (they knew they had a turd on their hands and just wanted a quick buck) and its general likeness to its subject matter that it came and went without my notice.

Therefore, revisiting Envy was something of a quest for me.

A fairly straightforward setup yields results so terrible that I am increasingly concerned that I will succumb to this movie's principal fault and make an endless string of dog shit jokes to denounce it. Stiller stars as Tim a likable-in-a-button-down-kind-of-way but kind of dull worker drone at 3M. His best friend, co-worker, and neighbor Nick (Black) is falling behind at work because he lacks focus or "is a dreamer" as they say. Nick announces his grand idea for an invention, the aforementioned shit-disappearing spray, and is greeted by Tim with skepticism. Shortly after declining to get in on the ground floor with Nick's enterprise, Vapoorize takes off big time. Nick becomes a multimillionaire over night and soon, Tim is in a downward spiral of some sort of deadly sin...I wonder which?

As mentioned before, the number of jokes about dog poop are legion. It's absurd how many unfunny jokes can be milked from a resource with near-infinite comedic potential. Seriously, someone fucked up if you can't make a movie about the simplest thing (poop!) funny.

Enough about poop, I need to talk about the goddamn Envy theme song. Occasionally throughout the movie, during transitions and montages most of all, there's this damn song that plays. I don't know who's responsible for it (Mark Mothersbaugh did the music for some reason but I refuse to recognize it as his). Basically the song's verses describe whatever is going on in the plot at that time. Approximated example: "Oh well sometimes your friend makes a lot of money / And that makes you very jealous / Dowopadoodup bopadoobow / ENVY!". Something similar comes up every ten minutes and Jesus could I not care any less for it.

Then there's the supporting cast. We all know Stiller and Black are good when they're good, though they're usually just mediocre nowadays. But the movie has a very, very good assembly of second-string talent. Rachel Weisz and Amy Poehler play the respective wives of the leads and Christopher Walken is in there as "J-Man", a drifter who encourages Tim to lash out at the newly successful Nick.

Someone apparently had a complete misunderstanding of the ways of applying Christopher Walken's genius and just turned the weird/crazy dial up to 11 and set him loose. It's like if one of those assholes in a "More Cowbell" shirt made a movie. Ha ha, we get it. Christopher Walken. Can we move on please?

Amy Poehler suffers considerably as Nick's wife and is never given anything to do aside from a political subplot that seems tailor-made for Leslie Knope that goes nowhere (I suspect it was cut). I was actually genuinely offended by Rachel Weisz's presence in this movie. She deserves so much better. At one point, after Tim reluctantly joins up in Nick's corporation and becomes rich himself, Weisz's character gets "liposucked", because that's shorthand for a boring housewife becoming wealthy. Honestly, if there is one human being on the planet who should not have her body altered in any way, it's Rachel Weisz. Good Lord, she's beautiful. I WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO HER UNDER AN OLIVE TREE AND READ POETRY TO HER!

For a great number of reasons, including a complete lack of tone (is the movie dark? I don't know, it's kind of beige, or camel if anything), Envy was one of the more tedious tasks thus far in my Dreck odyssey. I didn't laugh once. I got nothing out of it. Hell, Big Momma's House 2 was at least interesting to gain insight into why that franchise (yes, franchise) exists. But God this was oppressive.

To put it simply, I would rather watch a dog take a shit than watch Envy.

Envy is ranked #74 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 6% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.