Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie - 2012

"Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" - 2012
Dir. by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim - 1 hr. 33 min.

Official Red Band Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I would think that any comedy duo/team who is making the leap from TV to feature films would watch "BASEketball" at least once before doing whatever it is that they will end up doing.  I don't mean that anyone should necessarily try to emulate that film, but there are reasons why that film is the least successful (artistically and financially) of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's careers.  Unfortunately, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim make pretty much the exact same mistakes with "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," and end up with an even less-watchable film.

Tim and Eric play fictional versions of themselves here, and they've just torn through one billion of the Schlaaang Corporation's money making a film that ended up only being three minutes long.  Understandably, Tommy Schlaaang (Robert Loggia) is upset, and wants his money back.  Tim and Eric flee town after seeing a TV commercial offering the opportunity to earn a billion dollars back by turning a decrepit mall around.  If you've ever seen "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!," you'd know that the plot isn't the entire story. Much of their humor is derived from awkwardness, whether it be in editing, acting, or deliberately poor production values.  That much hasn't changed.

The primary problem with this film (other than it not being particularly funny) is that there are no characters to connect with on any level.  Tim and Eric play dipshits (if you'll pardon my French), and not even shaggy dogs that you can like in spite of themselves.  They're just stupid, and you can tell they're being stupid on purpose, which is off-putting.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between a film and a TV show (and in this case, a TV show with an 11-minute run time).  It's possible to get away with mining awkwardness and eighties production values for humor when a viewer only has to deal with it for eleven minutes: it's an insignificant investment of time, and there's not much at stake.  If a joke bombs, whatever, there's another show on in a couple of minutes.  But if a filmmaker is going to ask a viewer to sit through ninety minutes or more, having some way to connect with the characters involved is a must.  Funny jokes and weird characters aren't enough; if a viewer doesn't connect with the characters (and here, Tim and Eric deliberately avoid that at all costs), ninety minutes is an eternity.  If that reeks of a "formula," too bad.  Different means of presentation have different requirements.

But worse, this movie doesn't have a bunch of funny material.  Considering the comedians involved, that's nearly a crime.  It's not like anyone is really set up to shine, but Ray Wise does the best with his material out of everyone.  John C. Reilly plays a character called Taquito, but the only funny scene that he has is when he dies.  Okay, the bit where he eats unrefrigerated frozen taquitos is kind of funny, too.  But both Zach Galifinakis and Will Ferrell have WTF roles; they both seemed more concerned with being a little weird and creepy than anything else.  And I guess that brings me to the biggest point: not being funny in an ironic way isn't actually funny or ironic.  This film is just an overload of an attempt at that, but funny things are funny because you react to them, and smothering a film in eight layers of irony makes it very hard to have any kind of reaction at all.  It's something that can work in small doses, but a feature film isn't a small dose.  When you have a comedy film that isn't funny, that's not Andy Kaufman-esque irony, that's a failed comedy film.

All of these problems could have been at least mitigated had Tim and Eric just watched "BASEketball" first.  Though "BASEketball" did have some pretty good gags, it also featured lead characters that were difficult to connect with, and humor that is better in smaller doses than in large ones (incessant trash-talking).  Frankly, I was disappointed in this film; I had enjoyed their TV shows, but I don't see any particular reason in the material present that demanded a feature film be made from it.  I mean, can you make the very act of making a film ironic?  I suppose that's the meta question here, but the answer isn't very entertaining, and it's not going to hold your attention for very long.

1 / 5 - Streaming

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