FEATURING: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, , Twink Caplan, Will Ferrell, William Atherton
PLOT: Two filmmakers in debt to their patrons take over management of a run-down shopping mall, hoping to make back the money they owe and lose their fake Hollywood attitudes.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Heidecker and Wareheim’s recently-ended television series Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! was one of the outright weirdest shows on air, but their short skit format doesn’t translate as well to a feature-length film. There are various hilarious and strange moments, but as a whole it’s a disappointment compared to the show.
COMMENTS: Formatting itself as a film-within-a-film—which allows for several fourth wall-breaking moments and sarcastic plot breaks—Billion Dollar Movie is essentially a combination of several sketches dragged out into a clumsy, broken narrative feature. It opens with a series of infomercials of products to improve your viewing experience, segues into a fake 3-minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator, then finally brings us to our unflappable stars Tim and Eric, casting themselves as over-tanned Hollywood hacks who wasted a billion dollars on an unsellable movie that doesn’t even really star Johnny Depp. In debt to the Schlaaang Corporation who funded them and distraught over losing their extravagant lifestyle—which included the employment of personal guru Jim Joe Kelly (Zach Galifianakis)—the guys take a job as mall managers under the belief that they’ll receive a billion dollars for it. Their financial backers assume they’ve skipped town and go to violent lengths to track them down.
The mall itself is essentially a building-size set-up for several typical Tim and Eric characters and short sketches, only with more recognizable supporting cast members (which means fewer of their more disarming amateur regulars, though James Quall and few others make appearances). There’s the Top Gun-obsessed mall owner (Will Ferrell) and his sickly nephew of an indeterminate age (John C. Reilly), a man (Will Forte) who gets paid not to sell swords from his sword store, a mysterious cult leader (Ray Wise) promoting enlightenment through “Shrim”, a woman (Twink Caplan) who somehow is sexually attracted to both Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, and a proud seller of used toilet paper who passively allows his son to be unofficially adopted by a stranger. Oh, and don’t forget the man-eating wolf. He’ll get ya.
Flush with weird, unsettling jokes and plenty of gross visual gags, Billion Dollar Movie offers the type of humor and characters anyone familiar with Tim and Eric’s output might expect. There are moments that seem to blend horror and comedy in such an uncomfortable way as to produce only confused, visceral reactions (a feeling surely recognizable to fans of their work). There are moments that are truly bizarre and hilarious, including Jeff Goldblum’s introduction (as “Chef” Goldblum), the ridiculous digs at Hollywood culture, and the whole Shrim thing. Then, there are moments that just don’t work. Considering their brand of non sequitur, gross-out weirdness is hit and miss in short formats, it’s no surprise that a feature-length film doesn’t really suit Tim and Eric’s skills. There’s no driving force, with a flimsy plot structure and haphazard script that plods along from good joke to bad joke and boring segments in between. Even at its weirdest moments it seems tame compared to some of the sketches in the show, probably because everything is given more context and presented in more familiar terms.
For fans of the show it will likely be a disappointment, but it’s also hard to resist seeing for yourself. Just be ready for surprising amounts of nudity- even for them. I saw a lot of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim that I didn’t expect to ever see.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Cult weirdoes Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim define their small-screen oeuvre with delirious excess and unrepentant weirdness, but their cult television shows look positively austere compared to their cinematic directorial and starring debut, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.” –Nathan Rubin, The Onion AV Club (contemporaneous)