Posted August 28, 2012 by Edward Boff in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie


By Edward Boff – To describe the output of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim strand as being something of an acquired taste is like saying the ocean is a touch damp.

By Edward Boff

To describe the
output of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim strand as being something of an acquired
taste is like saying the ocean is a touch damp.
Many of the shows featured range from the nostalgia oriented
(such as Harvey Birdman Attorney At Law
and Robot Chicken) to those that
border on utterly surreal, such as Aqua
Teen Hunger Force
, and Tim &
Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
(That’s not a typo by the way, that is how
it’s written.)

Created (as in they write, produce, star, direct, do music,
get doughnuts…) by the titular Tim
Heidecker
and Eric Wareheim, the
show’s a sketch format based mainly on the sort of sights usually only seen on
the most cash-strapped
American public TV stations, corporate training videos,
adverts or other things
you’d find lurking VERY deep
at the bottom of VHS bargain bins (back when they still had
those). This is taken to quite an
extreme in the casting which, along with familiar comedy faces like Jeff Goldblum and John C. Reilly, also includes many decidedly unglamorous non-actors
that actually populate such material (such as David Liebe Hart, the mind behind the 20-year long LA public
broadcast series The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson). As such, there’s quite an odd tone at
work. It’s not so much a parody of the material but simply Tim & Eric’s
vision of it, grotesquely turned up to eleven. So how strange and awkward is the end result? Let’s put it like this: they cite David Lynch as a major influence.

Now, like many sketched based comedians before them, Tim
& Eric have made the leap on to the big screen with their very own ‘Billion
Dollar Movie’. Translating
material that was originally meant for 11 minutes, plus advert segments, to
feature length is always a big gamble, as shown by pretty much every Saturday Night Live movie, other than The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World. When a vision as twisted and as niche
as this gets stretched to that format, the risk increases. So how is the finished product?

Well, it fills the satirical quota almost immediately as the
storyline (using the word “plot” really would be stretching
things…) involves Tim & Eric going to Hollywood, being given a billion
dollar budget for a feature film … which, before the opening titles have even
finished, they’ve completely frittered away on the celebrity lifestyle. Now on the run from the investors, the
two get the idea (from an advert in the men’s room, where all true inspiration
strikes) to raise the money to pay back the company by taking over and running
a somewhat rundown shopping mall.
For somewhat run down read:
it’s full of squatters and there’s a wolf in the food court. These
obstacles being the very least of their problems!

The sketch format of the original show is there, with the
mall used as a linking theme, and these areas are where the film shines
(especially in the “Understanding This Movie’s Themes” educational
segments). However, there’s a lot more focus on storyline this time. Which is especially interesting given
that Tim & Eric’s on screen personas are perhaps the most evil protagonists
in recent film history. Them
basically taking the chance to tell any story they want, with an unlimited
budget, and then blowing that opportunity and becoming massive sell outs is
actually one of the less morally dubious things they do over the course of the
film. That’s all part of the joke
of course: the idea of Middle America basically having become somewhere for
those on substantially higher incomes, to pick over the remains of the
consumerist dream (Occupy Wall Street would love this one!).

Not that Tim & Eric’s brand of utter self-centeredness
is strictly used against the inhabitants of the mall, no. There’s plenty of
being bastards to each other too, and here’s the other big difference between
this movie and the TV show – the gross-out factor. The show already has enough grotesque sights and awkwardness
but now they’re free from TV’s restrictions, it’s all out. There are two stand out sequences in
particular. One is part of a ‘sell-out’ montage early on – and it would be
interesting to imagine what the props department thought when asked if they had
one of ‘those’. The other comes towards the end and merges an incredibly
awkward sex scene with possibly the hardest thing to watch on film you’ll see
at least this year! Even if you
have high tolerances for this brand of humour, you’re not ready for this. The
film has definitely earned its 18 certificate over here.

T&EB$M is a movie that, despite being a little too long,
with not quite enough jokes for the runtime, does come recommended. It’s great to see an all-star guest
cast (including William Atherton, Will
Ferrel, Robert Loggia, Ray Wise
and many more) being given free reign to
ham it up like there’s no tomorrow. The satirical edge works and one has to
admire the film’s fearlessness. It’s not vital to have seen Tim & Eric’s previous
stuff to enjoy this one but it may help you to appreciate where the humour is
coming from (but you’ll get that as soon as you see the blurry VHS picture
quality in several sections). If
you have a pretty high tolerance for gross out and mugging to the camera
humour, give it a watch.


Edward Boff