Starring: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Zach Galafianakis, Will Forte, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia, William Atherton, Ray Wise, Twink Caplan
Screenplay: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Directors: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
I’ve been a fan of Tim & Eric since Tom Goes to the Mayor. Not a rabid fan but a fan. But sometimes—actually, most of the time—stuff that works in small doses on TV doesn’t work as well when expanded to feature film length. TaEBDM is an attempt to marry the body horror comedy and commercial satire of Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! with a riches-to-rags-to-redemption plot that can carry a 90 minute film.
We begin with the billion dollar movie of the title, three minutes of wretched excess shot in Paris with a Johnny Depp lookalike in a real diamond suit walking down the street and charming a waitress. The honchos of Schlaaang Corp, who financed the film, are outraged, and plan to sue Tim and Eric to get their money back. The two, who have lost themselves in fake-tanned Hollywood bullshit, have to cut loose their $500K-a-week guru, Jim Joe (Galafianakis) and skip town, answering a commercial where a Damien Weebs (Ferrell) says a billion dollars can be made taking over the management and restructuring of his failing mall in S’Wallow Valley.
After hiring them, Weebs leaves them to it, with only the sickly Taquito (Reilly) to show them around. They set about meeting the mall store proprietors and making changes, with subplots involving Eric falling for one of them, Katie (Caplan), with Tim coming between them, while Tim arrogantly assumes parentage of one of the failing store owner’s sons. Meanwhile, the Schlaaang folks are trying to find them, even torturing Tim’s and Eric’s mothers.
I like some of Tim and Eric’s gross-out comedy, just like I like the kind of Max Headroom ’80s/’90s editing and cheap graphic effects they use. They have a vision, and when given their first chance for a feature film, I can’t blame them for going as far as they can with it. Still, as with the show, a little goes a long way. There were great possibilities in exploring the ill-conceived, failing stores and their eccentric owners. But Tim and Eric go almost exclusively with the gross rather than the whimsical or absurd. Eric is the sweeter of the two, but it’s not enough to see that he’s masturbating under the covers when thinking about Katie, we have to see his sticky fingers after wards. There’s a store selling used, wrung-out and dried toilet paper, and it smells bad. But that’s not the only shit joke. Ray Wise runs the Healing Center, and he’s a weird charlatan similar to any number of characters from the series, but for the film, we get to see that his healing secret, “shrim,” is just the diarrhea of young boys, and Eric is forced to take a bath in it. When Tim and Katie have sex, half of the scene involves her sodomizing him with various devices.
To an extent, it’s admirable that Tim and Eric compromise seemingly not at all for the film. Tim’s treatment of his faux son, Katie and Eric is deplorable, and even Eric, though portrayed as without malice, does speak in an ugly way to Katie about “wanting to explode in (her) hole” or something. This isn’t written by guys who don’t know what they’re doing—they clearly want to challenge the viewer by not making their characters sympathetic, naive goofballs in a strange and cruel world. They’re part of the problem.
That said, if you’re going to eliminate or critically damper audience identification with, or sympathy for, your characters, and your plot is simplistic and nihilistic (everybody dies), then you had better deliver a lot of laughs and/or some mind-expanding notions of comedy. And they just don’t. There are some cute bits here and there, like Eric’s date with Katie at The Unbreadables, a restaurant where everything is made of bread, but I just didn’t laugh nearly enough. Even the big name cameos don’t come off. Galafianakis, Ferrell and Reilly are good for about one laugh each. I’m sure there was some improvising going on, and yet Galafianakis just gives Jim Joe a drawn-out howl, Ferrell’s Weebs is a blatant, sweaty con man we’ve seen a million times, and Reilly’s Taquito, seemingly named because he eats spoiled taquitos that have sat out, unthawed, for too long, kind of cancels out his comedic appeal because he really looks like he’s going to die of food poisoning. Only Will Forte’s character, the angry guy running the sword store, EZ Sword, is a success. He comes on with great energy and a clear comedic angle, and he’s funny. It’s hard to say what would have made the film work better without making it not a Tim and Eric film, but it just isn’t very good.