With That Kind of Money, You’d Think They Could Afford a Real Joke
Someone sold their soul to make Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. Nothing else can explain the financing, production, and release of a movie this unendurably awful. You have to wonder: Who in their right minds is going to think this is funny? Do the people behind it even know what the word “funny” means? On the basis of this film, writers/directors/stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have never heard an actual joke in their lives. They may not even know what a joke is. The movie basically consists of two men and a roster of guest stars, some of whom have bothered to establish themselves as serious actors, sinking to the lowest depths of crudeness in a desperate plea for attention. It’s a little like a comedian trying get laughs from an audience that has already left the club.
I honestly don’t know if Heidecker and Wareheim are gutsy or just plain stupid. It certainly requires a different mindset to willingly star in a scene where you’re thrown into an empty bathtub and then showered with explosive diarrhea, courtesy of robed boys chanting a nonsensical alternative medicine mantra. The tub is filled to the brim, and Wareheim, the hapless victim of this scene, gurgles through mouthfuls of excrement. I feel bad for him, and for Heidecker; they actually believe they must stoop to this for the sake of their careers. Out of love, someone needs to lock them in a room with a trained therapist who can adequately explain to them that what they’re doing isn’t working, that they never had anything to prove, and that they’re better than this, not just as actors but also as human beings.
When the film isn’t being disgusting, then it engages in a tiresome pattern of dragging out innately humorless verbal gags well beyond the breaking point, perhaps in the misguided belief that repetition will somehow make it acceptable. Consider the curious practice of pausing the film for segments in which moral themes are badly reenacted by a pair of elderly men; the joke, I guess, is that two old guys are reciting lines that wouldn’t pass muster in an after school special. Such blatantly self-congratulatory moments will eventually find their way into the narrative. At one point, Heidecker and Wareheim think they’re being clever when they break the fourth wall and explain to the audience the reason the joke they just told was funny. They’ve officially broken the number one rule of comedy: It isn’t funny if it requires an explanation.
The plot, as it were, involves Tim and Eric losing the $1 billion they were given by a Hollywood production company to make their own movie. Part of this involved the invention of a ridiculous new movie theater seat equipped with an oxygen tube, an IV hookup, and stirrups. They have no choice but to payback the psychopathic studio heads (Robert Loggia and William Atherton), for the contract they signed made them solely responsible for the money. As luck would have it, they see an ad on TV for a mall somewhere in the Midwest, which has fallen on hard times and is in desperate need of new management. The owner, Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell), promises a cash prize of $1 billion to anyone able to rehabilitate the mall. And so Tim and Eric miraculously walk to the Midwest all the way from Hollywood – and strangely, never once do they swing their arms.
The mall itself looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic thriller, with vagrants sitting by makeshift fires and a wolf roaming the premises. It’s filled with bizarre stores, including one that sells used toilet paper. Tim and Eric meet Weebs in person and discover a desperate, half crazed man who – surprise, surprise – doesn’t actually have $1 billion to give them. They take the job anyway and soon meet Taquito (John C. Reilly), who was abandoned in the mall as a boy and has a constant hacking cough and a pale face with sores on it. They also meet an older woman named Katie (Twink Caplan), and Eric immediately falls in love with her. Quite inexplicably, Tim claims the son of the toilet paper store owner as his own. This will not stop him from throwing the boy into the air during a shootout, at which point he explodes like human bomb.
Other colorful characters are seen throughout the film. There’s a disgruntled sword shop owner (Will Forte), who snitches on Tim and Eric to the psychopathic studio heads; they will soon be at the doors of the mall with machine guns. There’s Tim and Eric’s former spiritual guru (Zach Galifianakis), who possesses the ability to fly and appears and disappears in a flash of light. He also sports a hairstyle seen on every Sacajawea animatronic ever created. There’s Tim and Eric’s elderly mothers, who are strapped to chairs in the office of Loggia’s character. One will get sucker punched in the stomach while another will have her finger cut off. There’s even a cameo by Jeff Goldblum, who clearly must be desperate for work. I sincerely hope nothing I’ve described about Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie seems appealing to you. Movies like this shouldn’t be made, or even conceived of.