We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Jack Black becomes a zillionaire named Nick Vanderpark in "Envy," who gets rich by inventing a product named Vapoorize. Yes, with a double "o". It makes doggy-do into doggy-didn't. Spray some on your dog's morning gift and it disappears. His best friend Tim Dingman, played by Ben Stiller, lives across the street. They share the commute every day to the sandpaper factory. When Vanderpark comes up with the idea for Vapoorize, he offers Dingman a 50 percent share, but Dingman turns it down. He can't figure out how it could possibly work. Soon, of course, he is being eaten alive by envy.
My memory for some reason dredged up an ancient science fiction story in which a child's toy would zap little metal objects like paper clips into the fourth dimension. Great, until they started leaking back into our three. When you walk through a speck of paper clip, you can do serious damage. I wondered if maybe the same phenomenon would happen in "Envy," causing, say, five years of dog poop to reappear all at once. Not a pretty picture.
The plot idea resembles that classic British comedy "The Man in the White Suit," with Alec Guinness, who invented a fabric that never gets dirty. Of course Guinness underplayed the comedy, a concept alien to Black and Stiller. Not that we want them to dial down; they're gifted comedians, and it's fun to watch Dingman gnashing while Vanderpark celebrates his untold riches.
Vanderpark doesn't lord it over his neighbor; he builds an enormous mansion, yes, but right across the street from his best buddy, because he doesn't want to leave the neighborhood. So that every time Dingman looks out the window, he has to witness Vanderpark's latest acquisition: ancient statuary, a proud white stallion, a merry-go-round, whatever.