Movie Review: Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
Before Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, I would have considered myself a fan of “cult film,” that cloudy-at-best genre distinction that typifies nothing in particular and is inclusive of everything from The Big Lebowski to Troll 2. But, having now seen the aforementioned film, I’ve come to realize that there is no such genre as “cult film,” merely that there are multiple definitions of the term:
- The first, the one that I suppose describes most “cult” movies I’m a fan of, relates to films that went under the radar upon first release for one reason or another and then “made it” as a consequence of midnight showings or home release. Cult films of this nature don’t necessarily have to be bad or good—the gap between The Big Lebowski and Troll 2 is oceanic, after all—but have built a devout following, the likes of which demand merchandise, anniversary DVD releases, documentaries, and so on.
- The second definition, which is what I’m claiming Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie falls under, is that a movie is made for a pre-existing cult; a rabid—if small—fanbase who are already devoted to the movie before it comes out, a group of people perfectly happy with receiving more of the same, but in a longer format.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with movies that fall under the second definition. I was once a big fan of Tom Green (and would still happily argue that his particular brand of comedy was ahead of its time), and am not ashamed to say that I own a copy of Freddy Got Fingered on DVD. The thing about that movie is that if you’re not a member of its cult, you’re left in the cold. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, if you’re not familiar with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim‘s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, behaves in much the same way. Despite providing “helpful” interludes wherein the film’s ridiculous plot is shown to relate to themes like conflict resolution, if you’re not a fan, it’ll probably be difficult to see how a scene where a group of robed children defecate on a man in a bathtub could be funny to anybody, let alone the guys who wrote it.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie sees the titular characters—who not only play themselves, but direct—on the run from the evil Schlaaang Corporation—headed by Tommy Schlaaang (Robert Loggia) and Earle Swinton (William Atherton)—after taking a billion dollars and making a three-minute movie starring a Johnny Depp impersonator. Tim and Eric don’t have much time to pay the impatient, cruel Schlaaang off, but luckily there’s a commercial on TV claiming that the two could make a billion dollars by taking command of the S’wallow Valley Mall, a desolate wasteland overrun by wolves and hobos. As soon as they agree to the job, Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell), the mall’s owner, abandons the place, leaving behind stacks of floppy discs and a worn VHS of Top Gun.
This doesn’t faze the duo, who’ve formed a P.R. firm named “Dobis,” an amalgam of the phrase “doing business.” In this capacity, they meet the denizens of the mall, including Taquito (John C. Reilly), a sickly manchild raised by the mall’s wolf, Allen Bishopman (Will Forte), the perpetually pissed-off owner of the mall’s sword store, used toilet paper store owner Reggie (Matt O’Toole), whose son is taken from him by Tim, and Katie (Twink Caplan), a balloon store proprietor who captures Eric’s heart. Tim and Eric slowly set the mall to rights, Schlaaang slowly tortures Tim and Eric’s parents for information, and Tim plots to derail Eric’s budding romance with Katie.
All of this, in being deliberately bad and/or deliberately disturbing, is supposed to be funny somehow, but I missed it. The movie’s jokes and gags that had something going for them—a video advertising an alternative medicine called Schrim, for example—are taken well beyond the point where they were funny and never quite return. But then, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is very much a film made in the post-modern, everybody is a star ethos, where YouTube (and public access before it) has given everybody a means by which to take their fifteen minutes of fame. Tim and Eric may have more famous friends than the dude doing a seven minute clip show in the hopes that 1,000 people will see it, but here they are in film form, ever the awkward everymen. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, from its title to its lo-fi aesthetic to its impersonators of Depp and Steven Spielberg, is the duo’s giddy “Fuck you” to the movies. Sadly, I like movies a lot more than I like Tim and Eric.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. With Tim Heidecker (himself), Eric Wareheim (himself), Will Ferrell (Damien Weebs), John C. Reilly (Tacquito), Will Forte (Allen Bishopman), Twink Caplan (Katie), Robert Loggia (Tommy Schlaaang), William Atherton (Earle Swinton), and Zach Galifianakis (Jim Joe Kelly). Released March 2, 2012, by Magnet Releasing.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.