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Review: 'Tim & Eric' make leap to big screen

A good example of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's uniquely manic comedy comes early in their first movie, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie."
/ Source: The Associated Press

A good example of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's uniquely manic comedy comes early in their first movie, "Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie."

Tim and Eric, given $1 billion by studio executives to make a movie, have turned in a three-minute disaster. Faced with financial ruin, they must fire their spiritual guru who penned the poem that inspired the film, Jim Joe Kelly (Zach Galifianakis).

We've seen such a scene in many movies before, the angry split between close collaborators. At first, Wareheim, Heidecker and Galifianakis merely inflate the drama, with excessive shock and emotion.

Then Kelly falls in a pool, necessitating an equally dramatic rescue and much thrashing in the water. After resuscitating him, Tim and Eric dump him back in the pool and jump in after him. Back on dry land, Kelly's moaning gradually soars to the pitch of operatic singing.

Finally, after debating whether the parting phrase is "Peace out" or "Please out," Kelly settles on "Please out," flutters his arms, and morphs into a shiny beam of light that flies away.

In the land of "Tim & Eric," there is no "too much." Over-the-top isn't something to be evaded, it's an ethos. Packaged in public access TV production and frenzied, chopped-up editing, it has the hyper pacing you'd expect to find in a Japanese TV commercial.

It would be the stuff of stoners, if they could keep up.

The comedy of "Tim & Eric," as they're known, has built a small but fervent following. They've created a number of cheaply-made cult TV shows, including "Tim and Eric Awesome Show," "Great Job!" and "Tom Goes to the Mayor." (Perhaps their most widely seen work is the Old Spice ad campaign starring Terry Crews, which they produced.)

Other comedians, like Galifianakis, Will Ferrell (who also appears in the film) and Bob Odenkirk (who discovered them) have gravitated to their unbound, whacked-out universe. There seems to be no filter, whether external or internal. Questions of subtlety and taste don't enter in: The philosophy seems to be to take a risk, and then take 12 more.

"Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" is a faithful if not exceptional example of their comedy, which — like most sketch comedy — is best consumed in smaller doses. It can take time to adjust to their herky-jerky rhythm — and certainly a large percentage of the public will have no tolerance for it — but if you go with it, there's quality absurdity here.

The film opens with a domino of corporate parentage parody, first with an ad for the Schlaaang "Super Seat" recliner hosted by "Chef" Goldblum (really Jeff Goldblum) and then by a myriad of Schlaaang graphics to present the movie (Schlaaang Production, Schlaaang Group, and so on).

After the film finally screens — with a 30-second graphic crediting Tim and Eric for directing (which they did) — the executives (headed by Robert Loggia) demand their money back. Tim and Eric skip town, where they are lured by promises of riches by Damien Weebs (Ferrell), who hires them to manage his rundown mall.

Ferrell makes good on his few scenes, enjoying one of his favorite staples: the lunatic huckster. He initially shoots at Eric and Tim, then hugs them, then gets upset at them for knocking over his piles of floppy disks and finally makes them watch "Top Gun." Twice.

In the mall lives Taquito (John C. Reilly), a kind of sickly, grown orphan. At one point, he raps. Also in the mall is Allen Bishopman (Will Forte), a furiously defensive sword salesman.

Of course, with limitless absurdity comes a kind of glossy-eyed meaninglessness and extreme tastelessness. You probably don't want to know about the toy-aided sex scene that's juxtaposed with a diarrhea bath. That, for many, will be a bridge too far.

But Heidecker and Wareheim remain very hard to pin down. Even when you're expecting unpredictability, they surprise you. Who would have ever predicted an Aimee Mann song?

"Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," a Magnet release, is rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, comic violence and drug use. Running time: 94 minutes. Two stars out of four.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G — General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.