I wonder how many critics are going to analogize their reviews to the wildly successful product that leads to the title emotion of this movie: “VaPOOrize,” an aerosol spray that eliminates dog poop.
Then there will be those who will focus on the title, perhaps directing their own envy toward those who did not have to watch the movie.
I am going to do my best to resist those temptations, because the movie is not that bad, though it sometimes feels as though it is.
Tim (Ben Stiller) and Nick (Jack Black) are best friends who work together. Nick is a dreamer, always coming up with wild ideas. His performance evaluation is strong in every area except for “focus.” Tim is as focused as a laser beam. Nick’s most recent idea is “Vapoorize.” Nick offers Tim a chance to invest, but the idea seems so absurdly speculative that Tim turns him down. But this time Nick’s dream comes true, and soon he is doing infomercials and raking in the loot.
Nick does not want to move, so he builds a monstrous Richie Rich-style house across the street from Tim. He has a full-size carousel, a yellow Lamborghini with a license plate that says “CACA KING,” a butler who compliments him all the time, a beautiful white horse named Corky, and a doorbell that barks “Where Has My Little Dog Gone?” And all of that does to Tim’s feelings of friendship what the spray does to the dog poop. Tim is consumed with envy and that leads to some outlandish activities involving revenge and cover-up and Christopher Walken that are supposed to be comic but mostly aren’t.
It isn’t bad; it just isn’t good enough. It’s a long, long time between chuckles. Nick is a sweet guy, which is lovely for him, but it does not make the best use of Black’s energy and it is not very funny. Stiller is always fine with repressed fury, but the script does not give him enough fury to do much repressing. He is also a pretty sweet guy, and that is also not very funny. Both men have stay-at-home wives (“Saturday Night Live’s” Amy Poehler and Rachel Weiscz) and interchangeable children. This movie has the sit, but not the com.
Parents should know that the movie has crude and macabre humor. In addition to the movie’s poop-ish theme, the carcass of a dead horse and an arrow shot into a man’s back are intended to be funny. A husband and wife tussle is mistakenly seen as sexual. Characters drink and one goes to a bar to get drunk as a way to respond to stress. There is brief strong language.
Families who see this movie should talk about envy and greed. Why are they called “deadly” sins? Why was it so hard for Tim to tell Nick the truth? What did Nick’s reaction tell you about him?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Meet the Parents (more mature material than in this film) and School of Rock. They might want to take a look at a quirky, even strange, movie with a similar theme Sour Grapes, written by Larry David, who reportedly came up with the idea for this one, too. And they might want to try making some flan!