Save Ben Stiller
If anyone out there knows Ben Stiller, please, I beg you, do something. He's in way over his head and he's sinking deeper and deeper into some terrible shit with every movie he makes.
Remember 1998? It was a big year for Stiller. He hit the jackpot with There's Something About Mary, arguably one of the most influential comedies in the last decade. TSAM did for comedy what The Matrix did for action flicks and Pulp Fiction did for crime pictures; it's influence permeated the genre for years. Stiller followed TSAM with two outstanding, mostly dramatic performances in Neil LaBute's Your Friends and Neighbors and the Jerry Stahl bio-pic Permanent Midnight. After years of great character work, especially on his short-lived TV show, Stiller finally had the fame he deserved.
Then, as the late 90s gave way to the Aughts, something strange began to happen. Stiller started showing up in some pretty terrible movies.
Sure, there are some exceptions, Meet the Parents and The Royal Tenenbaums, most notably. But for the most part, Stiller's body of work is leading him down the path to Hackville. Just look at the wet-fart flicks that stick out on Stiller's resume: Mystery Men, Keeping the Faith, Zoolander (I know this has become a sort of cult hit, and it definitely has its moments, but let's be serious for a second. Zoolander is a pretty terrible movie, even by stupid comedy standards.), Duplex, Along Came Polly and Starsky & Hutch.
Each of these movies are good for a few laughs, but when looked at objectively, these are bad movies that find Stiller playing the same high-strung, fidgety everyman, guaranteed to have at least one slow-burn scene where his reserved manner gives way to a hyperactive, stammering alter ego.
Now comes Envy, Stiller's latest effort co-starring Jack Black, Chris Walken, Amy Poehler and Rachel Weisz. Originally filmed back in 2002, the movie's release was delayed for more than a year. I first saw previews for Envy about ten months ago. Then I heard it was being shelved until early 2004, and I knew that wasn't a good sign. But I was reassured by the talent involved. In addition to the seemingly hilarious cast, the film had Barry Levinson directing (remember him from a couple of films called Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam?) and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David producing. How could it go wrong?
Who knows. But it did. It went very wrong. It's one of the most humorless films I've seen in a long time. Think about that, folks. Think about how bad a film has to be that even Jack Black and current SNL-standout Amy Poehler couldn't save it.