Review Date:
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Steve Adams
Producers: Barry Levinson, Paula Weinstein
Ben Stiller
Jack Black
Christopher Walken
Two regular working-stiff best friends are placed in an uncomfortable situation when one of them becomes super-rich by inventing the “Vapoorizer”, a revolutionary product that gets rid of dog shit with a simple spray, while the other goes nowhere because he didn’t invest in the idea when he had the chance. Friend #2 gets envious and comedy is supposed to ensue. It doesn’t.
I’d been hearing about how “bad” this movie was since early last year, when it was bounced from its original May 2003 release date, but even with those low expectations, this film still disappointed with a general “blah-ness” about it, as well as a lack of substance, humor or charm of any kind. How can a movie directed by Barry Levinson and starring hot properties Jack Black and Ben Stiller, hottie Rachel Weisz, funny Amy Poehler and Christopher “the man” Walken not entertain, you may ask? Rent this movie and find out. I say “rent” because there’s no reason in the world that anyone should have to pay to see this shit (get it?) in theaters, particularly because it doesn’t appear as though anyone related to the production gave a shit (get it?) about its audience either. From lame “shit” puns like the lame puffballs delivered by yours truly in the previous sentence, to a lack of genuine funny situations to an overall feeling of disconnection with anyone in the picture, I couldn’t help but wonder how so many seemingly great elements could end up with something so lifeless, so empty, so un-funny. In fact, if it wasn’t for the great Walken and his over-the-top patented line deliveries (notice how he emphasizes only the words that he wants…and it works!), a couple of typical spastic Black moments (although he’s reined back here) and one funny speech by Stiller near the end of the film (but even that…goes on for way too long), the film’s got zero laughs.

Our entire audience was waiting to crack up but they just waited, waited and waited some more, until some started to walk out and others started thinking about how they would start their reviews an hour or so after the movie with the line “I’d been hearing about how ‘bad’ this movie was since early last year…” Sadder still is the fact that the film’s premise is actually quite ripe for comedy (rent a much funner, cooler version of a “dink getting rich” in BREWSTER’S MILLIONS). Unlike Stiller’s other “paycheck” flick from last year, DUPLEX, this one doesn’t even feature a bunch of goofy attempts at payback– there’s basically one bit of nastiness here and that’s about it. The characters are too sympathetic, the situation isn’t blown out of proportion enough and you never really feel like there’s any real conflict (which generally leads to good comedy). It doesn’t help that Levinson tries to stretch the film with shots of airplanes flying through the sky, a montage here and there, and even an extremely lame song called “Envy” (c’mon!!) that keeps playing throughout the film (with passing commentary) Gimme a break. And what was with the slapstick fast-speed during a couple of scenes? I guess the man was trying anything by that point. Ultimately though, the movie is just “there”, it just sits there like — yeah, I’m gonna say it — a piece of shit and unlike the supposed incredible invention from the film, I couldn’t spray anything to make it go away. Instead, I sat, I watched, I walked out, I had a few drinks at a local drinking hole and I returned home to let you know to avoid doing the same. Do not envy me, folks…I had to sit through this shite.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian