Tim and Eric are given a billion dollars to make a movie but squander every dime"¦ and the sinister Schlaaang corporation is pissed. Their lives at stake, the guys skip town in search of a way to pay the money back. When they happen upon a chance to rehabilitate a bankrupt mall, they see dollar signs—a billion of them.
SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: During the indie film boom of the 1990s some really weird comedies were made by eccentric directors. At the high-end of the scale were studio works like Wayne’s World but more often they were down and dirty and pushed boundaries, like Adam Rifkin’s The Dark Backward (garbageman Judd Nelson grows a third arm), Barry Shil’s Motorama (a 10-year-old car thief travels cross-country), Alex Winter’s Freaked (a circus freak comedy starring Keanu Reeves as 'Dogboy’) and Adam Bernstein’s It’s Pat (the much-derided SNL spin-off about Julia Sweeney’s man/woman character).
The film embraces the same disregard for traditional structure as the series did
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie feels very much of that period. Like many from the sub-genre, it was borne out of cable television fandom: its creators Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker hosted the bizarre sketch-comedy series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! The film embraces the same disregard for traditional structure as the series did and opts for hit-and-miss visual gags, fake commercials and an overall sense of scatological glee.
The skeletal plot involves Tim and Eric fleeing the brutal Schlaaang Corporation. Convinced the two could create a hit movie, Tommy Schlaaang (the great Robert Loggia) puts up $1billion only to have them blow it on extravagances like a $5000-a-day spiritual guru (Zach Galifianakis), penis-piercing jewellery and self-enhancement surgery. When they finally deliver their opus, a Paris-set romance called 'Diamond Jim’, it runs three minutes and stars a Johnny Depp impersonator (Ronnie Rodriguez) who commanded the real Depp’s usual fee.
To hide from Schlaaang and recover the money, Tim and Eric take jobs overseeing the rundown S’Wallow Valley shopping centre, a strip mall recalling George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead by way of Dante’s Inferno. The former owner, Mr Weebs (Will Ferrell), warns the two to be mindful of the wolf that lives there and the volatile sword shop proprietor, Mr Bishopman (Will Forte). Having established trust with consumptive mall-dweller Taquito (a truly repulsive John C. Reilly) and wooed aging balloon-stall sweetheart Katie (Twink Caplan), Tim and Eric set about making the mall the grand testament to consumerism it was always meant to be.
The movie’s plot advances when it needs to (nobody signed on because of the storyline), so the film lives and dies on the percentage of laughs-to-running time ratio and, by that equation, it succeeds. Wareheim and Heidecker have an effortless dynamic which allows for jibes at each other’s expense while still exuding warmth, much like Wayne and Garth and Cheech and Chong. As co-directors they handle the rhythm well and smoothly integrate their trademark 'clip comedy’.
Be warned that the style of humour is mostly putrid; one faecal-based sequence has left a scar on my subconscious. (Passolini would be proud). Language is ripe (C-bombs abound), most body fluids get screen time and graphic violence is prevalent, often against the aged. One subplot, thankfully downplayed, suggests Tim may be a paedophile.
Despite the uncredited appearances of Hollywood stars Ferrell, Galifianakis, O’Reilly and Jeff Goldblum (as Schlaaang spokesperson, Chef Goldblum), Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is entirely appropriate for the opening night slot at Sydney’s Underground Film Festival.