Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie review
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are pros at doing “Tim & Eric” stuff. Their show is focused on a super-specific aesthetic, and if you’re willing to laugh at it, it is so satisfying so surprisingly often. It’s been finished for a while now, but while the show was on — rather than stale and stagnate — they honed and perfected their nightmarish form of sketch comedy to a place where only true auteurs usually go. I can not seriously say that that’s what I think of them, but damn, I f**cking loved that show.
That being said, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is...not so great. Well, most of it wasn’t. I mean, like, there’s parts that aren’t the worst, but...*sigh*, you know, like...ugh. Listen — here’s the deal. I know this was a movie and not just a long version of their show, and it wasn’t a situation where I’m going in to this thing thinking “Oh, this better be exactly like their show that I love because there’s no other way that I’ll enjoy this”. It’s just that the movie couldn’t ever really decide either way, and what we got out of it was just this weird forced skeleton narrative tying together a string of sight gags, gross-outs, and barely justified clips that felt kind of like Awesome Show.
The reason the show is watchable and not alienating and upsetting is because each episode is eleven minutes long and usually only tangentially coherent. It caters to your short attention span and delights you because it just does what it does and never has to explain itself. The movie, on the other hand, chooses to try and explain everything. Basically, Tim and Eric make a super-short, super-crappy movie for a billion dollars and they hide out in an abandoned mall from their investors while simultaneously fixing up the mall somehow. Yuck. It sounds stupid because it is stupid.
Still, the first ten minutes or so of the movie are great. It makes fun of the format of a movie. All of the classic “Tim & Eric” schtick is there, except instead of a public access television show, it feels like you’re watching some sort of poorly produced straight-to-DVD movie. It’s half commercials, and everything is hastily edited and glitchy. It gears you up for an experience. It feels like a bigger version of their show, with an extra sort of energy added in that brings it up a notch. It felt like it acknowledged that it was on the big screen. It was exciting.
Then, the story begins in earnest, and it ruins everything. It’s lazily told, without commitment on the part of almost anyone — except for Will Forte and John C. Reily, who are enjoyable if repetitive. Suddenly, you begin to really feel how little sense most of these weird half-jokes actually are. The infomercial-style sketches stumble when they try to move the plot forward. Trying to justify an absurdist scene where four young zealot boys in robes are vigorously shooting diarrhea out of their butts and into a tub with Eric in it seems forced when it’s happening to a character in a story that we’ve been trained as moviegoers to try and sympathize with. Instead of being shocked into laughter, I was merely confused. Why would a movie this bizarre attempt to conform to the idea of having characters with wants and side plots? I don’t care that Eric wants to have sex with a weird middle-aged balloon artist and that Tim stole the son of a used toilet paper salesman! I just want to see a creepy commercial from Cinco! Or even just a weirdo singing! I mean, the comedy is kind of still there, and I found myself laughing periodically throughout the movie, but never as satisfyingly as I wanted to. And I REALLY wanted to.
Of course, there’s the easy way out we can all take, where we say, “Duh, IDIOT! It’s SUPPOSED to be bad! That’s the whole POINT!” While I think that’s true to a point, it doesn’t account for the fact that Tim and Eric have succeeded at this in the past, and have only just fallen flat just now. That’s not even a completely accurate choice of words, actually. It’s not their fault that the movie doesn’t quite work. They’re just doing what they’ve always done. The problem here is the fact that it’s a movie in the first place. You can’t sustain what they do in eleven-minute bursts for a full 90 minutes. To do it is to remove something that makes it entertaining. It just doesn’t translate. Also, it was super-gross when Eric pierced the tip of a realistic-looking dildo hanging out of his pants.