It’s understandable, if mildly disappointing, that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie isn’t unwatchable. T&E are rarities in the comic world, their humor founded less on content (sketches, characters, etc.) than on filmmaking: bad edits, cheesy transitions, icky sound effects and other hallmarks of amateur videomaking. A 90-minute version of Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, whose episodes clock in at 12 minutes, would cause even the strongest brain to melt and pour out of ears. Still, these two are capable, more than anyone, of making this century’s L’Age D’Or: a surrealist assault that bombards viewers with rich and strange imagery.
What we get mostly lacks the filmmaking-as-comedy aspect, but it’s fine: well-paced and, happily, only somewhat accessible. And like all mixed-bag comedies, repeat viewings will allow viewers to glom onto the parts that work while learning to ignore, or at least tolerate, the parts that don’t. A montage where one of our stars is submerged in a shit tub rather tests that theory, but B$M is largely devoted to random nonsense only moderately related to the skeletal plot. Here, the “real” Tim and Eric, in massive debt to belligerent studio heads (led by a growling Robert Loggia), hide out at a dilapidated Midwestern mall overrun by odd retail (a sword store, a store selling “used toilet paper”) and a rampaging wolf.
Famous celebrities (Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Jeff Goldblum as “Chef Goldblum) are brought in as ringers but never upstage our heroes, who are at their best when revealing their penchant for cartoonish evil. The funniest thread is its darkest: Tim winds up callously abusing a local sadsack, taking away first his store and then his young son, whom he decides to raise himself. There is no retribution, and the film’s most hilarious scene, all of 15 seconds, finds this kick-me sign sweeping sadly and calling out in vain for his errant boy. This is a world where likable characters are brutally murdered and people get their jollies by having their arms sawed off then resewn on. Still, there’s an overall slacker ethos to B$M that keeps it from being crazier, or at least more consistent. But, by one’s fifth viewing, that feeling’s likely to pass.