Movie Review: ‘Tim and Eric’s Billion-Dollar Movie’
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim work best in sketches. If you’re reading this, I suspect you’re a fan of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, if not, it’s a sketch show that’s best bits mock public-access television, from the strange and self-aggrandizing programs to those car commercials from the local dealer who insists on inserting himself into nearly every frame, regardless of appearance or vocal stylings. All this is done with hyper editing, bizarre imagery, and hopelessly cheesy special effects. The trailer gives a pretty good idea.
Either way, it’s very creative but can’t last beyond a minute or so. And that’s the biggest failing of Tim and Eric’s Billion-Dollar Movie – the sketches are great, the main storyline is horrible. I was in utter stitches at the opening commercial with Chef Goldblum (Jeff Goldblum, and the movie gets at least a star for capturing the only non-bad-ass image of Goldblum) and loved the actual billion-dollar movie itself, but then the lights go up and it all goes downhill. Imagine if the sublime Jackass films actually forced the gang into an actual plot—and how traumatic an experience that would be.
The basis is that Tim and Eric have been given a billion dollars by the omnipresent Schlaaang Corporation to make a film. Going overboard on production values (such as hiring a personal guru played by Zach Galifianakis and mistakenly casting a Johnny Depp impersonator instead of the real thing), they end up with a three-minute fiasco, which infuriates company president Tommy Schlaaang (Robert Loggia). He orders them to pay back the full amount or else. Distraught, the boys decide to get drunk and list off a series of increasing hyperbolic activities, such as cutting their arm off or piercing their urethra—and then proceed, graphically, to show them. Meeting up in the bar restroom, they discover a television ad informing them that Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell), head of the Swallow Valley Mall, is offering up a billion dollars to anyone willing to put his decrepit mall back on track.
The boys head out to Swallow Valley and are offered the job after several viewings of Top Gun and meeting Weeb’s nephew Taquito (John C. Reilly), and idiot man-boy who lives in a blanket tunnel and suffers from nearly every disease known to man. He’s the living embodiment of the mall itself, which hosts a haunted frozen yogurt shop, an eerie healer offering patients the chance to unleash their inner Schrimm, a sword broker (Will Forte) who’s violently opposed to making a sale, and a wolf.
That sounds fabulously entertaining, but absolutely nothing is done with any of the characters. Instead, Tim and Eric’s trademark inventiveness and eye for small-town satire is washed away in cheap excrement jokes and bland shock. It’s not offensive because so much of it has been done before by far less talented people. Performers are wasted—Reilly basically just scrunches his face and coughs; Loggia just growls threats and screams curses; and Forte just screams. But the biggest waste is Tim and Eric themselves.
Like I said earlier, Jackass handled it right, not only keeping it to the skits but furthering them with the bigger budget (i.e the jet engine scene), and I think that would have been a better formula for Tim and Eric—or they could have developed some semblance of a plot through the skits alone, such as having some disaster strike a small town and seeing the local merchants’ and public-access stars’ reaction to it. Anything but a stifling shoe-string that works against their strengths and even ends up bringing down what should have been the best parts. Case in point: By the time the Schrimm advertisement arrived, I was so bored even that couldn’t lift my spirits.
Granted another characteristic of Tim and Eric’s comedy is anti-humor, but this isn’t on a transgressive level like Freddy Got Fingered – for good or bad, Tom Green’s film was endlessly tasteless in so many innovative ways – Tim and Eric just fall back on taking the kind of shock gags we’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster a few steps further. And there’s barely any David Liebe Hart.
Tim and Eric’s Billion-Dollar Movie is directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Written by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Starring Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum, John C. Reilly, Erica Durance, Will Forte, Robert Loggia, William Atherton, Ray Wise, Twink Caplan, and David Liebe Hart.