Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller) and Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black) are best friends, neighbors and co-workers at 3M. Nick is constantly coming up with crazy ideas to get rich quick, and when he invents Vapoorize, a spray that instantly removes dog feces, he actually succeeds. As Nick's wealth continues to grow, so does Tim's envy, as he had initially scoffed at the idea and squandered an opportunity to invest and become mega-rich himself. Nick is blissfully unaware of Tim's jealousy, and his generosity only serves to make Tim more envious of him. Meanwhile, Nick's wife Natalie (Amy Poehler) decides to run for state senate but is continually plagued by questions about her husband's product.
After Tim's wife Debbie (Rachel Weisz) and children temporarily leave and he is fired from 3M, Tim's jealousy reaches new levels. In a bar, he meets J-Man (Christopher Walken), a bizarre drifter, who lends a sympathetic ear and offers advice. After a drunken night out, Tim accidentally kills Nick's beloved horse, Corkey, and buries the horse in his abandoned swimming pool.
Nick offers a $50,000 reward for the return of his horse. J-Man and Tim concoct a plan whereby J-Man would discover the horse and claim the reward, splitting the proceeds. However a series of unfortunate events, including Tim's family getting holed up in J-Man's mountain cabin, leads to the horse's carcass being lost in a rain storm.
Nick reveals to Tim that he is going to Rome for the debut of Vapoorize there, and gives Tim the opportunity to join him in a 50-50 partnership, which he accepts. J-Man finds out that Tim is now rich, and, feeling betrayed, tries to blackmail him. After confessing to his wife, now enjoying her rich lifestyle, Tim agrees to pay J-Man; however, J-Man ups his demands and asks to be Tim's partner. Tim accidentally shoots him in the back with an arrow and J-Man, believing that Tim has tried to kill him, backs down in fear.
Tim eventually confesses all to Nick who forgives him for his jealousy and agrees to continue with the partnership; however, at a press conference for Natalie's electoral campaign (where she promises to withdraw her candidacy if it is proven Vapoorize is harmful to the environment in any way), Corkey's body is seen floating down the nearby river. The animal's post-mortem reveals that the horse was not killed by the arrow as previously thought but actually poisoned by a by-product of Vapoorize, used by Tim to treat his garden after Corkey came to eat the apples off of his tree. The veterinarian informs the pair that she is obliged to notify the Environmental Protection Agency, and Vapoorize is immediately pulled from the market. Nick and Tim almost lose all their wealth and glory, until Tim comes up with an invention of his own: Pocket Flan, inspired by Nick's family's love for the dessert. J-Man is shown in the audience of Tim and Nick's infomercial for Pocket Flan, apparently reconciled.Ben Stiller as Tim Dingman
Jack Black as Nick Vanderpark
Rachel Weisz as Debbie Dingman
Amy Poehler as Natalie Vanderpark
Christopher Walken as J-Man Goddard
Envy received generally negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 8% based on 117 reviews with an average rating of 3.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Jack Black and Ben Stiller fail to wring laughs from a script that's essentially one extended poop joke." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 31 out of 100 based on 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D" on an A+ to F scale.
The film had been shot almost two years before its release, and was in danger of going straight-to-video in the US due to poor audience response during test screenings. It was only due to the success of 2003's School of Rock starring Jack Black that it finally got a theatrical release. Nevertheless, the film performed poorly in US theaters, so much so that it was released straight-to-video in several European countries and Australia.
The film was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actor (Stiller), but lost to Fahrenheit 9/11 (George W. Bush).