By Matt Tuthill, Photos courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Tim and Eric fans often refer to themselves as diehards. This is, however, a redundant term. There is no other kind of Tim and Eric fan. You’re either completely repulsed by what you see as a collection of childish diarrhea jokes and silly songs or enamored with their deft ability to take those jokes and encase them within a series of other jokes. This is mainly accomplished in video shorts using actors who can’t act—people simply pulled off the street precisely because they look so average—and then packaged with editing techniques from the late '80s and early '90s.
Of all the love-it-or-hate-it pop culture interests that exist today, few induce the kind of fervor—on both sides—that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim do. For lack of a better word, you can call the humor bizarre. Surreal and sometimes frightening also fit. In my humble opinion, so does piss-your-pants hilarious.
The duo made cult legends out of themselves with five seasons of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!—a 15-minute program (12 minutes without commercials) that aired on Cartoon Network’s late-night block, Adult Swim. When they ended the show’s run in 2010, they went straight to work on Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, which is currently available on demand and in select theaters this March.
To the uninitiated, the structure of Billion Dollar Movie (B$M in Internet parlance) looks like something you’ve seen a million times before; Tim and Eric were given a billion dollars to make a movie, wound up with three minutes of usable footage after spending most of it on Johnny Depp’s diamond-crusted suit, then have to repay the billion pronto or face the wrath of the evil Schlaaang Corporation. Thankfully, this is not a sincere plot device, but rather a brilliant setup for an overarching spoof of crappy formula comedies.
Their idea to repay the billion is beyond brainless. They buy a mall from obvious shyster Will Ferrell, who forces them to watch Top Gun on VHS twice on his tiny office TV before talking business. Ferrell’s character then bolts, leaving the two to handle the mall, which is really a burnt-out slum with few functioning storefronts, including one that sells used toilet paper. As promised in the trailer there’s action, sex, and special effects, as well as a giant Shrim bath (I won’t spoil that delicious surprise) and, in wonderfully creepy fashion, Tim steals another man’s son to call his own.
One of the great mysteries of Tim and Eric’s humor is their ability to rope bona fide celebrities into the act and the movie doesn’t disappoint. In addition to Ferrell, Awesome Show alums John C. Reilly, Zach Galifinakis, Will Forte and Jeff Goldblum all get some memorable scenes. Robert Loggia and William Atherton also fit in surprisingly well.
The movie makes a good-faith effort to draw in an audience that might not be familiar with Awesome Show, but as a selfish enthusiast, this turned out to be my only gripe. Ferrell’s character, for instance, is pretty tame compared to an unforgettable bit he did for Awesome Show, where he appeared as a slave labor kingpin renting out child clowns.
Nevertheless, Billion Dollar Movie stands as a testament to how talented Tim and Eric really are. The movie might be "Awesome Show Light," but it’s still better than 99% of any comedies that come out of Hollywood.
Fire it up on your cable box or through iTunes. You’ll die laughing or want to come and kill me for recommending it.
There isn’t a chance you fall anywhere in-between.
Currently available on-demand or as an iTunes download. In select theaters March 2012.