Proving less is definitely more, cult comics Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim torture their purposefully inept, shortform sketch work into feature length with “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” to diminishing returns. Even fans of their Cartoon Network series or those simply familiar with the pair via YouTube will likely find the extended version of their pathos-and-pain-driven comedy hard to digest, never mind the gastrointestinal shenanigans that run riot through the film. Ready-made aud assures some theatrical biz for the March 2 release, but if the “Billion Dollar” idea was to attract new viewers, someone should get their money back.
Which is more or less the premise of the movie: Tim and Eric have been given a billion dollars to make a feature called “Diamond Jim,” and blown most of it on real stones and a fake Johnny Depp (Ronnie Rodriguez). Having taken one look at the ridiculous movie they’ve paid for, the pair’s investors — Tommy Schlaaang (Robert Loggia) and Earle Swinton (William Atherton), the menacing capos of the Schlaaang Corp. — want their money back, and intend to break legs, or worse, to get it. Tim and Eric have to skip town, and when the opportunity arises, they do.
In a desolate, litter-strewn shopping mall, inhabited by homeless vagrants, wolves and the few merchants who’ve managed to survive (the “Dawn of the Dead” allusion can hardly be coincidental), the two remake themselves into Dobis P.R. (Why P.R.? Why not?) Tim and Eric try to rally their depressed and/or delusional store owners — including Katie (Twink Caplan), Eric’s heartthrob, or the angry sword-salesman Allen Bishopman (Will Forte) — into imagining a better life, and a better mall. Obstacles must be overcome and conflicts resolved, but the real tension is generated from how far the pair is willing to push things, and it always seems to be too far.
A number of well-known faces pass in and out of the story, including Jeff Goldblum (as “Chef Goldblum”); Will Ferrell as the guy hoping to unload the mall on the witless pair; and John C. Reilly, whose performance is too good: As the ill, demented and discomfitingly childlike mall habitue Taquito, Reilly is genuinely disturbing, delivering a turn that would have worked well in a real horror film but is, unfortunately, inappropriate for a movie in which the governing ethos is failure. Tim & Eric, as a comedic entity, are about eliciting laughs by not being conventionally funny, much in the vein of Adam Sandler and Ferrell, performers whose chief asset is an ability to imbue their characters with an utter lack of self-respect.
“Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” recycles characters and plotlines from their show, along with badly made commercials and faux PSAs about inane subjects, a gambit that dates back to such comedy compilations as “Kentucky Fried Movie” or even “Laugh-In.” What “Tim & Eric” has that those others lacked are the many sexually outre, scatological and degrading moments that seem intended to shock — and perhaps will, if you’re really young or really old.
Tech credits are intentionally inept.