The Review Revue: TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE
In “The Review Revue,” we turn dozens of movie reviews from all over the Internet into one handy blog post. It’s like super-concentrated orange juice for film criticism (with less pulp and Vitamin D). This week: we pay the price for TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE.
Previously on The Review Revue! TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, the debut film from cult TV comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it was the subject of a Sundance Review Revue that indicated that the film was “largely a for-die-hard-fans-only affair.” Now the film has been unleashed on the wider critical community — will they agree with their Park City-visiting, altitude-sickness-battling brethren? Or will they out them as elitist snobs who didn’t get the joke? Let’s find out.
Directors: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Writers: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Cast: Tim Heidecker (Tim Heidecker), Eric Wareheim (Eric Wareheim), Robert Loggia (Tommy Schlaaang)
Plot Synopsis: Tim (Heidecker) and Eric (Wareheim) are hired by the Schlaang Corporation to make a movie for the tidy sum of one billion dollars. When they squander most of the budget on expensive makeovers and diamond-covered suits made out of real diamonds, they wind up with an unreleasable, 3 minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator — and one truly pissed off investor (Loggia). The boys need to find a billion dollars and fast, which is exactly what an ad for a local abandoned mall is offering to anyone who can come and manage the place back into business. In this economy? Good luck, dudes.
Most Positive: Amanda Mae Meyncke, Film.com:
“There’s nothing normal about this film, other than it vaguely has a beginning, a middle and an end… The story veers from ridiculous to surreal to half-baked and back around again, and it’s impossible to guess what might happen next, given the sheer inanity of what is currently occurring. There’s only a few recurring characters from the show, no Dr. Steve Brule, no Casey, in fact Tim and Eric only play Tim and Eric the whole time, no other deviations. It’s fascinating to see what Tim and Eric do with a feature length film.”
(In Other Words:) Tim and Eric made an awesome movie, great job! Though they brought their surreal sense of humor with them from the small screen to the silver screen (or from the small screen to another small screen if you watch the movie on VOD or iTunes instead of in theaters), they didn’t simply copy the formula from their Adult Swim series, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. Nor did they just trot out all their old characters and time-tested bits. To a large extent, they actually did the opposite, which was either extraordinarily brave or extraordinarily stupid. They made a movie (kind of). And it cost a billion frickin’ dollars (not really).
Most Negative: Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:
“The purpose of a cult is exclusion. If you’re not in the cult, you are by definition lacking some essential quality shared by its members. Those inside the cult can feel privileged, even gifted, by their ability to Get It. I was willing to Get It, I was sincerely prepared, but at the end of this experience, I concluded there was nothing to be Got.”
(In Other Words:) Tim and Eric didn’t scrimp on the Shrim. On the one hand, I get exactly where Ebert is coming from: BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE is weird. Better yet it’s weeeeeeeird. Frankly, if I was going to accurately sum up how weeeeeeeeeeird this movie is, I’d need a weeeeeeeeeeeeeird at least a paragraph long. So I understand feeling like there is “nothing to be Got” because the film is, at times, boldly and even antagonistically impenetrable. On the other hand, the values that Heidecker and Wareheim brought to the production of this movie are values most of us say we want in independent film. Heidecker and Wareheim refused to sell out, refused to dumb down their comedy for their masses — or, uh, smarten up their comedy in this case, I guess — and followed their creative impulses wherever they led, studio executives be damned (even the ones who look like Robert Loggia). Even if we don’t love the result, shouldn’t we applaud their artistic ethos? Maybe, maybe not.
Most Typical: Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News:
“They can be an acquired taste. In BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, it’s a taste you may un-acquire at about the 30 minute mark.”
(In Other Words:) Feature length might be a little too long for Tim and Eric. This was a very popular refrain amongst critics, even those who enjoyed the film to a certain extent: BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE is just too damn long. Each episode of Tim and Eric’s series on Adult Swim is just 15 minutes minus commercials. So moving into features means expanding their storytelling exponentially. These are guys that think in sketches, and B$M works best in short, contained bursts of sketchish insanity (like Jeff Goldblum pimping theater seats that are, let’s say, invasive of one’s private space). BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE isn’t no cheapie 65 minute feature with five minutes of outtakes and ten minutes of credits either; it runs a full 93 minutes. Like it or not, you’re getting your money’s worth here.
The One Review You Have to Read: Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice:
“THE TURIN HORSE not excepted, TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, a comedy, is the most startlingly apocalyptic film of the year… BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE shares its disdain for the mechanics of movie storytelling with nonsense classics like MILLION DOLLAR LEGS or HELLZAPOPPIN’. If it matches neither in anarchic imagination, Heidecker and Wareheim should still be applauded for pure destructive impulse, the healthy urge of this sick movie.”
(In Other Words:) Tim and Eric are Billion Dollar Doomsmiths. I admit that when I saw BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, I didn’t really think of it as an apocalyptic movie, but the more I consider Pinkerton’s review, the more I believe he’s dead-on. As silly as B$M is, the mood is positively cataclysmic, as the S’Wallow Valley Mall, with its boarded-up stores, weird, worthless entrepreneurs, and resident man-eating wolves, represents as bleak a portrait of late Western capitalism as you’re likely to see in any American film this year. Tim and Eric’s get-rich-quick scheme is ridiculous — who could make a billion dollars renovating an entire city, much less a shitty-ass mall? — but it does also speak to some innate desire in the collective American psyche to do something basically worthless and get paid lots of money for it (call it “The Snooki Principle”). Their portrait of a big budget movie — the laughably atrocious DIAMOND JIM starring a eerily on-the-nose Johnny Depp-a-like — is silly, too, but not that far off from, say, THE TOURIST, which made more than a quarter-billion dollars worldwide. And if that doesn’t make you feel like the end of the world is at hand, I don’t know what will.
The Critical Consensus In One Sentence From One Review: “To quote an SNL sketch featuring [Tim and Eric’s] costar and producer Will Ferrell, I don’t think that legally this qualifies as cinema.” — Matt Singer, Time Out Chicago (Hey, I know that guy!)
TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE is now playing in limited release.