There’s a recent trend in comedic features that pits impish, directionless adult men against major obstacles in their lives, with the film requiring these individuals to reform their ways all within the span of 90 minutes.
On the high-end of the spectrum are well-developed comedies such as “Knocked Up” from writer-director Judd Apatow. Somewhere in the middle is the manic lunacy of the Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly team up “Step Brothers.” Then at the very bottom are any programs from sketch comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim.
If all of the young men living out their intense stages of arrested development formed their own society, Tim and Eric, as they’re so affectionately referred to, would live on that society’s very fringe.
Perhaps best known for their Adult Swim series “Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and like any property with a modicum of popularity or cult following, Tim and Eric were always destined for the movies.
Much like their show, “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is an acquired taste, but one that eventually goes sour. The duo has parlayed their 11-minute long episodes, which generally featured a series of skits, fake infomercials and film parodies, into a feature-length film with very mixed results.
Perpetuating the stereotype of lost man-children, Tim and Eric decide to follow their dreams to the decrepit Swallow Valley Mall when a billion-dollar movie they’re making fails due to their wasteful spending, This forces the pair to recoup the major financial loss by attempting to restart the shoddy mall that’s become overrun with hobos, irate shopkeepers and wolves.
This is obviously a risky business venture, especially when former mall owner Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell) promises the boys will make back exactly a billion dollars by investing in the mall. As farfetched as it sounds, Tim and Eric find their humor in the completely absurd, such as a particular scene where a phallus piercing acts as a form of catharsis for Eric.
Nobody ever claimed that Tim and Eric were purveyors of good taste, but moments of “Billion Dollar Movie” feel as if they exist solely for allowing the duo to get away with gags they couldn’t pull off on basic cable television.
Despite having a major creative team that has overseen such comedies as “Anchorman” and “The Other Guys,” “Billion Dollar Movie” has taken a more independent approach to its distribution, playing to a polarized audience at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival before being acquired for distribution.
One would think that all of this was to allow the pair to really spread their wings and take their brand of absurdist, occasionally ballsy comedy to the next level, but even by today’s comedy standards it never goes very far. While the previously mentioned piercing scene sticks out and an opening that instructs the viewer on how to watch the movie yields some laughs, the majority of “Billion Dollar Movie” feels very familiar and even bland.
Some of the best comedic bits go to guest appearances by the likes of Ferrell, Reilly and “Saturday Night Live” star Will Forte, leaving Tim and Eric to be upstaged in their own movie. Audiences can see a new comedy from Ferrell or Reilly every few months, so you would expect the oddity of Tim and Eric in a feature film to require them to be on top of their comedic game. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Reilly appears as the most extreme form of a man-child – an orphaned boy named after the Mexican food Taquito, who was raised by the mall’s own wolves. Reilly is at the most obtrusive and bizarre he’s been since “Step Brothers,” and it’s one of the few inspired moments in the film.
By the end of “Billion Dollar Movie,” things have delved deep into “Animal House” territory, with Tim and Eric coming face-to-face with the film producers they owe a billion dollars to, on the very day their newly refurbished mall is set to open. It’s an overwrought mess with vulgar displays of physical comedy running amok, with the viewer feeling isolated from all the fun it looks like the cast was having.
It’s safe to say that the supposed avant-garde nature of Tim and Eric is lost on those who don’t regularly watch and enjoy their work. But even for someone who has spent a good amount of time with the duo’s often insulting but occasionally genius brand of humor, sometimes it feels as if they’re given far too much credit as comedy pioneers.
Perhaps the pair should go back to making easily digestible 11-minute shorts on late-night television to please their legion of college-aged viewers because for those who don’t eagerly check College Humor on a daily basis, “Billion Dollar Movie” will yield few laughs.
“Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is now available on iTunes and Video On Demand, with a limited theatrical release on Friday.