Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie

There are some medical conditions that are so embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about that they are commonly just referenced by their initials. I think that some movies deserve that treatment, so I will henceforth only refer to Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie as BDM. And unfortunately that’s not the only thing it has in common with IBS.

Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (playing the same version of themselves as on their self-referential TV show) have decided to try their hand at filmmaking, and they signed up with the Schlaaaang Corporation, led by Tommy Schlaaang (played by Robert Loggia), to finance the film. After blowing through an exorbitant amount of money, and it’s not hard to guess how much, they managed to produce only three minutes of content and some livid investors. But being the financial geniuses that they are, the contract they had signed with Schlaaang left them on the hook for repaying the costs of the film if it failed to be a financial success. And in this case, that’s the whole billion.

But fortunately they didn’t have to despair long because they soon saw a late-night television commercial featuring Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell) offering a billion dollars to anyone who would come to S’wallow Valley (and yes, there is an unexplained apostrophe) and run his shopping mall. Naturally, Tim and Eric jump at the chance and arrive to find something resembling an indoor version of Detroit on a bad day. The floors are littered with trash and homeless people, the food court with the rotting remains of what they had once served, and a lone wolf roams the halls. And yet at least one store (a sword shop run by a character played by Will Forte) is open for business. Whipping this mall into shape wouldn’t be an easy task for someone of even above-average intelligence, so the odds are pretty stacked against these idiots.

BDM is definitely the kind of movie that isn’t for everyone, and that seems to be supported by the high walkout rate that at least some theaters are seeing for the movie. It does seem that the film is better received by people who have watched and enjoyed their television show, although even that is not universally the case. I’ve never seen an actual episode of their show, but I have seen clips, some of which were genuinely funny, so they at least have the capacity for humor even if they don’t display that anywhere in this movie.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about BDM is its ability to take some funny people (and the cast also includes John C. Reilly, Zack Galifianakis, and Jeff Goldblum) and some fairly funny premises and produce something which is actively unfunny. There was not a single joke or occurrence in the film that even broke into the realm of amusing. The sparsely-populated theater in which I watched the movie did have some people laughing, but I think that is more at the suggestion of what could have been rather than what actually was presented. In many film genres, it may be a good thing to avoid explicitly spelling out what you’re trying to say, but it’s probably not a good idea to require your audience to complete the jokes in a comedy for themselves because there’s a good chance they’ll do it aloud. But honestly, there’s not much room for the experience to get any less enjoyable, so this may be a rare film in which the audience could help make it better. But I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re already a die-hard fan of their other stuff.