Tim and Eric’s comedy is about weapon-grade awkwardness. They’re the kings of off-kilter timing, inexplicable malapropisms, garishly slapdash special effects, and reaction shots that last two seconds too long. Their style resembles banal daytime TV fed through some sort of cosmic dislocator so that everything is 10-15% off.
Although in this case, it’s more like a banal direct to video movie. The premise: the Schlaaang corporation gives Tim and Eric a billion dollars to make a movie, which they squander on diamonds, helicopter rides, and a $500,000 a week spiritual guru. When they deliver a ridiculous 3 minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator, an enraged Tommy Schlaaang orders them to pay back the billion dollars. Destitute, they end up hiding at a derelict mall while ducking Schlaaang’s thugs.
Tim and Eric adjust to their new home, which is filled with such oddities as a used toilet paper store, a sword salesman who earns money by not selling swords, and a man-eating wolf that stalks the food court. They make friends, and enemies, and learn an important lesson: sometimes you gotta bring knives to a gunfight.
Some scenes perfectly nail the uncomfortable Tim and Eric vibe (there’s an almost impossible to watch scene where Eric starts to loudly masturbate off-camera, and it doesn’t let us go until he reaches his climax). Other scenes drag like hell, and have little energy. There’s a scene where Tim and Eric are trying to buy the mall from a neurotic Will Ferrell, and he forces them to watch Top Gun not once but twice. It probably sounded hilarious on paper. On screen, you’re thinking “okay…feel free to go somewhere with this any time, boys.”
This movie exposes the limitations of the Tim and Eric format, which is that they have trouble sustaining interest in their schtick for long periods of time. They were at their best in Awesome Show, Great Job, where they bombarded you with sketch after sketch. While you were still recovering from a left hook, in swings the right. But the artistic strictures of film means they have to keep scenes going, and going, and going…and the cider goes flat. They rely on the unexpected, and too much of the unexpected means your tastes adjust downward like a pupil under a bright light. Their ironic kitsch starts to seem like genuine kitsch. Their awkward pauses and affectations seem like random stupidity.
It’s fun to be in Tim and Eric’s world, but honestly you don’t want to be there for long. Billion Dollar Movie is like spending 94 minutes on a roller coaster. Fun at first, but after a certain point you just want to get off.