Directed by: Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim
Premise: A feature length version of the television show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job. Tim and Eric (Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim) squander a billion dollars on a short film and then take a job as managers of a shopping mall to pay back the film’s investors.
What Works: The Tim and Eric television show is a parody of public access channel programming and the whole point of the pair’s shtick is to be obnoxious. The best way to understand or describe this film is as a practical joke by way of Andy Kaufman or Sacha Baron Cohen. The joke is really being played on the audience and as Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie goes on, the filmmakers dare the audience to keep watching a pair of annoying characters through insufferable and unfunny comedy skits. If you turn away in disgust, then the joke is on you but if you laugh along with it, the joke is still on you. As these filmmakers would have it, complaining that the movie isn’t very good is to miss the point.
What Doesn’t: Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie may be funny to those who made the film but it is doubtful that anyone, even those who are entertained by the Tim and Eric television and web programs, will be able to stand this picture. The adaption from television to a feature film does not work for two reasons. First, part of the allure (such as it is) of the Tim and Eric television and web programs is that they are short. Like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which had a similar comic sensibility, each episode of the Tim and Eric television program usually ran about ten minutes and that is about as long as the gag can be stretched. Within that timeframe, Tim and Eric are able to operate within a specific satirical paradigm and the audience will go along with it. But, just as when Aqua Teen Hunger Force was adapted to a motion picture, once the Tim and Eric film gets beyond that ten minute threshold, the hip satirical appeal wears off and the audience is stuck watching an intentionally bad film. And that leads to the other reason for the downfall of Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Move: it is a bad satire. The television show “worked” because it was a satire of television on television. In translating Tim and Eric into a motion picture, the creators needed to change their approach to fit the broader canvas and make this a send up of Hollywood or at least the filmmaking process. But this film doesn’t do that, nor does it repeat the cheeky public access jokes of the television series. This film will be almost unrecognizable by Tim and Eric’s fans and for everyone else it is a bewildering succession of grotesque and unfunny gags. The filmmakers of Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie fancy themselves as playing in the same sandbox as UHF, Bruno, The Colbert Report, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but those films and television shows were masterful acts of parody. Parody works by identifying recognizable cultural trends or articles and then deliberately mismatching or exaggerating them. The humor comes out of the incongruous links between form and content. That makes parody a sophisticated comic form and it takes intelligence to pull it off successfully. Tim and Eric just aren’t up to that challenge.
Bottom Line: Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie strives for hipness and audacity but it is really an uninspired imitation of Wayne’s World with a botched execution and unlikable characters. Even though the point of the film is to be a cinematic practical joke, this film has more in common with Fred: The Movie than it does with Un Chien Andalou.
Episode: #379 (March 11, 2012)