Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by: Steve Adams
Release date: April 30, 2004
Running time: 1h 39min
After delivering a critical and box-office hit with 2001’s Bandits, director Barry Levinson once again takes on the comedy genre with Envy. The film stars Ben Stiller and Jack Black as Tim Dingman and Nick Vanderpark, two middle-class working stiffs and life-long pals. When Nick comes up with an invention that does away with pet droppings, he and his wife, Natalie (Amy Poehler), suddenly find themselves obscenely rich. However, Tim has a hard time getting used to his friend’s good fortune and becomes jealous, putting an increasing amount of tension between the two. Also starring Rachel Weisz, Envy was written by first-time screenwriter Steve Adams from an idea concocted by Adams and Seinfeld creator Larry David.
Cast & Characters
Ben Stiller (Tim Dingman), Jack Black (Nick Vanderpark), Rachel Weisz (Debbie Dingman), Amy Poehler (Natalie Vanderpark), Christopher Walken (J-Man), Ariel Gade (Lula Dingman), Sam Lerner (Michael Dingman), Lily Jackson (Nellie Vanderpark), Connor Matheus (Nathan Vanderpark), Hector Elias (Eduardo)
Tim (Ben Stiller) and Nick (Jack Black) are best friends, neighbors and co-workers, whose equal footing is suddenly tripped up when one of Nick’s harebrained get-rich-quick schemes succeeds: Vapoorizer, a spray that literally makes dog poop, or any other kind for that matter, evaporate into thin air.
Tim, who had poo-pooed Nick’s idea and passed on an opportunity to get in on the deal, can only watch as Nick’s fortune—and Tim’s own envy—grow to equally outrageous proportions. The flames of jealousy are fanned by an oddball drifter named J-Man (Christopher Walken) who takes it upon himself to help fix Tim’s situation, but only causes Tim’s life to careen more wildly out of control…taking Nick’s with it.
“The interesting thing about envy,” director / producer Barry Levinson observes, “is that it’s part of the human condition. We try to deny it, to hide it, to cover it up, but it’s in all of us. Early on, when I read the script for ‘Envy,’ I thought it was an interesting fable-like story about two best friends. One says, ‘I have this great idea; come on in with me.’ His friends answers, ‘Are you crazy? Of the 50 terrible ideas you’ve had, that has to be the stupidest. The next thing you know, that stupid, little idea becomes worth millions and millions of dollars. Where do they go from there? I thought that was worthwhile exploring in a comedic fashion.”
Screenwriter Steve Adams admits, “I generally want the scripts I write to be about things that concern me, too, and this story began with my own envy of other people’s successes. I found out it’s a common theme. When I would talk to other people about it, they knew just what I was talking about. In this case, it is the kind of envy that comes between two longtime friends who share everything…even their jobs. They are just everymen—guys who work together, come home, and wistfully dream of having more. Then this thing happens and one of them does get more…much more.”