Ever since their highly polarizing brand of humor debuted on Adult Swim, the mere mention of Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim seems to invite a referendum on whether or not they're actually funny. But come on, it's 2012, aren't we past that discussion by now? First of all, humor is subjective and we're all unique snowflakes with tons of opinions. Second of all, Tim & Eric ARE funny, extremely funny, so deal with it. Conversation's over, ya blew it. Not to sound all pretentious about it, but theirs is next-level humor: Post-modern, post-setup, post-punchline, post-conceptual, occasionally unwatchable, fully committed, and impossibly addictive. And just when it's tempting to laud their biting, sophisticated takedowns of corporate corruption, advertising malfeasance, or pop culture obsolescence, they'll throw in a diarrhea joke just to keep us on our toes. But it's no fun writing about why they make me laugh when I could be spending my time watching clips like this:
Until now, most of Tim and Eric's cultural contributions have been delivered in 11-minute increments aired late at night in the furthest reaches of basic cable. Their 2004 Adult Swim show Tom Goes to the Mayor was an animated (the term is used loosely here) oddity that spawned the live-action sketch show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, which in turn begat the John C. Reilly-starring fake public access program Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule. Add to that T&E;'s many contributions to HBO's Funny or Die Presents, their short films, their live shows, their extracurricular commercial and music video work, and they've been quietly putting their mark on the comedy landscape for almost ten years now. Even if you haven't heard of them, trust that your favorite comedians have. (Note Heidecker's near-silent role as Maya Rudolph's husband in Bridesmaids.)
It was only a matter of time before Tim & Eric moved into long-form entertainment, and that day arrived last week at the Sundance Film Festival, where Tim & Eric unveiled their feature film debut, Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (in theaters March 2 and available on-demand NOW). Although not a proper adaptation of any of their shows, it's such a faithful distillation of the style they've honed on Adult Swim that it definitely joins the ranks of such TV-to-film conversions as The X-Files, Firefly, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Coneheads, and Sex and the City. Any episodic TV show inevitably faces the challenge of making something that worked best in small chunks also palatable in a longer format, but perhaps no series has seemed less suited for a movie adaptation than Tim & Eric's Adult Swim work. A great deal of their humor is derived from improper edits, intentionally ugly graphics, and a frenetic, rainbow-hued avalanche of non-sequiturs that only seem tolerable in 11-minute segments.
So how how well does Tim & Eric's humor work in a 90-minute chunk?
Suprisingly well! For Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, the duo have slowed down their editing excesses and even written a cohesive narrative that plays like an unholy hybrid of UHF, Freddy Got Fingered, and, I don't know, Pink Flamingos? B$M tells the tale of two failed Hollywood filmmakers who accidentally waste a billion dollars on a three-minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator. Robert Loggia is the homicidal corporate executive who demands that Tim & Eric pay back the money, and Will Ferrell is the oily businessman who offers Tim & Eric the chance to make exactly one billion dollars by running the worst mall in the nation.
So the plot's pretty straightforward (and could even be called compelling), but much of the movie exists as a way for Tim & Eric to make fun of movies in general. From the seemingly endless array of production titles at the beginning to a corporate tie-in involving a horrifying lounge chair for moviegoers to the intermittent interruption by a PowerPoint presentation meant to ensure the audience follows the movie's basic themes, B$M is as meta as Tim & Eric have ever been. So while the pacing feels slower than their Adult Swim offerings, it's certainly not less stimulating.
In addition to Ferrell's businessman (who also happens to be obsessed with Top Gun), highlights include Zach Galifianakis as a Hollywood guru and Clueless's Twink Caplan as the 60-something love interest the guys fight over. Also there's a truly hilarious Aimee Mann theme song and an appearance by Jeff Goldblum as a character named Chef Goldblum. In addition to all the familiar faces (including SNL's Will Forte) the cast is rounded out in typical Tim & Eric fashion by inexperienced actors who may or may not be in on the joke. Not since John Waters' collaborations with Edith Massey has there been such an awkward reliance on the odd line readings of non-actors working alongside talented professionals. Presumably in an effort to distance themselves from their Adult Swim series, there aren't any recurring characters or bits from the TV shows (except for a brief appearance by comedian James Quall and a last-minute cameo by David Liebe Hart), so in the absence of Dr. Steve Brule, John C. Reilly appears as a diseased manchild named Taquito:
B$M's most obvious innovation over its TV counterparts is its full embrace of the hard-R rating. While none of its gross-out moments ever approach anything resembling realism, the movie's casual willingness to show outrageously disgusting things made me wish I could've shared the viewing experience with a packed theater. (If you ever saw There's Something About Mary with a rowdy crowd, you'll know what I mean.) This movie intercuts one of the most off-putting sex scenes in cinema history with a somehow even more disgusting bathroom sequence, and during those three minutes the five people in my living room drowned out the audio with our laughter. Not bad for a segment that could just as easily cause nightmares as make people laugh.
If I had a complaint, it would be that my tired and palsied brain would've preferred MORE weirdness and transgression and a less conventional Save the Cat-style narrative, but it's understandable why Tim & Eric wouldn't want their film debut to be TOO alienating. If this thing ends up making money, they can always make their Tree of Life later on. As it stands, B$M is a perfect living-room party movie as well as a strong promise that we can continue to expect awesome stuff from these guys in the future. Great job!
Are Tim & Eric funny?