Shit is probably a word thrown around often when discussing the work of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Reactions such as “This is a load of shit!” or “Who put this shit on screen?” would not be uncommon coming from your average audience. And they would be factually correct. Tim and Eric, the ribald comedy duo known mainly for their avant-garde sketch show on Adult Swim, have a lot of shit. Literally. There is poop everywhere. And, in “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” the shit is more daring and explosive than ever.
For the past eight years, Tim and Eric have steadily cornered this scatological, gross-out niche with their three programs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim: the mildly demented and vaguely animated “Tom Goes to the Mayor,” the expansive and eccentric five seasons of “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” and their current program, “Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule,” which features Academy-Award nominee John C. Reilly explaining the wonders of life with all the eloquence of a frightened orangutan. It’s strange to say the least.
Really, “strange” doesn’t even begin to describe the oddities found in the quite possible hare-brained imaginations of Tim and Eric. In their universe, characters like the Beaver Boys, white rappers who exclusively eat shrimp and drink white wine, can flourish. Uncomfortable moments, like that of a man staring into the camera for 30 seconds, can thrive. Then, there’s more shit. Lots of it. And, in their first feature-length film, the strangeness can be seen expanded and uncensored.
For fans of their television shows, “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” will immediately seem familiar. Frequenter of “Awesome Show,” Jeff Goldblum opens the film as Chef Goldblum, a representative from the Schlaaang Corporation. He introduces the audience to the Schlaaang superseat — a device manufactured for the ultimate movie-viewing experience, which includes leg stirrups and a hot butter dispenser on the side.
Once the audience has been calibrated, the film begins with the titular “Billion Dollar Movie” that Tim and Eric (the fictional alter egos) have made with money from the afore-mentioned Schlaaang conglomerate. Only problem is, the film is only three minutes long with the entire billion-dollar budget being spent on extravagant sets and a Johnny Depp impersonator festooned in real diamonds. The rest of the movie finds Tim and Eric attempting to repay this money by revamping a bankrupt mall (rundown by a wolf infestation) owned by Will Ferrell. Naturally.
To recount the plot here would be a ridiculous endeavor because the story itself is far too bizarre for a synopsis. But, for those expecting a ninety-minute sketch show in the vein of Tim and Eric’s television work, you’ll be disappointed. No matter how weird the plot may be, there is a narrative to this film. “Right away, we decided when there was a possibility of the movie actually happening, we’re not going to make a sketch movie,” Tim said, “Those things always suck. They’re always the worst. And it’s hard to give a shit about anything that’s happening in them. So, we came up with a story that’s not going to be too complicated. It will act as support beams for the comedy and the jokes.”
And Tim would be right. The longer, narrative format of film allows new characters to be introduced and actually given a fleshed-out biography. Take for instance, Taquito — an impish man-boy played by John C. Reilly. Yes, his name is utterly stupid and his appearance (think leprosy) fairly grotesque. When asked about Taquito’s inspiration, Tim only remarked: “It was a funny name.” And yet, despite this apparent superficiality, Taquito is a person you come to love. “There’s a little thing that happens towards the end of the movie,” said Tim, “You start actually caring about these characters.”
With the film medium, Tim and Eric are able to strike a balance between sympathy and the strange that wouldn’t be possible in a ten-minute sketch show. “A film has a much longer shelf life than a TV show, “ says Eric, “Just during (the publicity tour), we’re finding how much importance people put on movies and having a DVD and owning it that I think is a much different experience than a TV show. We’re very proud of our TV show, but there’s something magical about a movie.” There’s also something liberating about film that allows Tim and Eric to showcase their unique sense of humor sans censorship.
“We kind of got the R level quicker through the movie,” said Tim, “We were able to do whatever we wanted without worrying about censorship.” And for Tim and Eric, that freedom translates not only into one of the most fantastical and awkward sex scenes ever put on film, but also to, of course, shit. “Creatively, (Adult Swim) give us whatever we want. But, you know, you can’t curse, you can’t show bodily fluids and do all sorts of other things. We show shit all the time on our show.”
Shit they may show, but “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is far from just a piece of crap. Freed from the confines of television, Tim and Eric boldly go where most dare not. With this film, they prove themselves to be the supreme auteurs of absurdity.