About a week ago I noted that when I come to review truly great films, such as RoboCop in that instance, I often worry that I’ll struggle to find the right words to describe just how good the film is. Today I review a film that is also going to be a struggle to find the right words for. Not because it’s a stunning film that should go down in history as one of the greatest ever. It is certainly not that. It’s also not a terrible film. The trouble with Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is that it is, as the title suggests, a Tim & Eric movie. They have such a unique and specific corner of comedy all to themselves and it becomes hard to criticise their film on the standards you would most. It’s one of those films that the fans will “get”, that most people won’t and what that means is that the films worth becomes difficult to quantify. Wish me luck…
Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie actually has one hell of a great basic idea for a comedy plot. The plot is that both Tim Heidecker and Eric Wereheim, playing themselves, were given $1 Billion to make a film by the apparently quite evil Schlaaang Corporation. Instead they blow all the money on an expensive lifestyle guru (Played by Zach Galifinakis), makeovers, a small man to be their servant and a real diamond suit to be worn by a Jonny Depp look-a-like that they were sure actually was the real Jonny Depp. Oh and 3 minutes of usable footage. Naturally the boss of the Schlaang Corporation Tommy Schlaaang (Robert Loggia) isn’t too happy with this and demands his Billion Dollars back. After a little soul searching, involving a lot of partying and a painful looking piercing, Tim & Eric happen across and advert asking for people to come manage a run down mall with the promise of becoming a billionaire. And so off to the S’wallow Valley Mall to meet with it’s current owner Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell) and his helper man-child Taquito (John C Reilly) and see what they can do about turning the mall around… and evicting all it’s vagrants and the man eating wolf in the pizza court.
Not a bad set up to be honest. Pretty standard comedy stuff but an idea that has the potential to allow for plenty of odd characters and subversive goings on. Trouble is that’s almost all you get. Now expecting a well structured story with three dimensional characters from Tim & Eric is probably asking too much. That’s not what they do. They do bizarre skits with the odd tinge of dark humour. There’s plenty of both of those here but the majority of the films middle act is essentially just them going from odd shop to odd shop. Each shop has it’s own odd quirk such as the used toilet paper store where Tim “adopts” a new child from the stores owner. There’s also the sword shop that exists purely to not sell swords to the public which is run by Will Forte. It’s not a problem of whether the humour actually manages to be humorous but more that it’s just not coherently tied together. As you’d expect, if you’re a fan of Tim & Eric, as I admit to being, You’ll likely really enjoy this, as I did. But the part of me that critiques film on a craftsmanship level finds the whole thing to be a mess.
The trouble mostly stems from Tim & Eric relying on caricature rather than actual fleshed out characters. This means that they stop being fully engaging once the opening few scenes have passed because they aren’t becoming people you can believe in. Instead they’re essentially paying lip service to character arcs and themes, something the film actually makes a joke of to be fair, but not actually developing smoothly. A film that was more comedy sketch focused as their series Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job! Was would have probably worked better than this. Something that’s more of a free-form comedy jazz, which is generally their strength, would have suited the film better. If you’re not going to execute the premise with an actual fully fleshed out story you’re pretty much making a film people will struggle to enjoy fully.
So see what I mean about a review for a film like this being tricky? I enjoyed it. I like Tim & Eric’s shtick. But I am all too aware that it is not for everyone and so the film may not be for you. Humour is easily the most subjective of all forms of entertainment. One man’s comedic genius is another man’s Rob Schneider. I can say I found the film funny and I enjoy their work but I can’t say that on a critical level the film is any good. See comedy, despite being subjective, isn’t incapable of producing great films with multi-layered characters and strong arcs. Subversive comedy such as Tim & Eric’s fights against that sort of structure though every step of the way. The technical side of the film is shaky and it is that which stops Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie from being what you could objectively call a good film. h It’s clearly been shot around the schedules of the cast members involved and so it feels constrained. The abandoned mall is the same one we’ve seen in countless films, most recognisably from James Gunn and Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake. The script falters and fumbles to accommodate extended scenes on subversiveness. In the end if you find them funny it’ll become a favourite, much like The Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie has for me. But if you don’t find it funny you’ll wish that Tim & Eric really did come away with just 3 minutes of usable film.