I very nearly didn’t watch this movie. I was channel surfing, saw it was coming up on the Movie Channel, and saw it was a film released this year. I’d heard the name once or twice but couldn’t remember seeing any reviews on it. It was a comedy, from the description, and sounded like it might be vaguely amusing. So I changed the channel, and was immediately subjected to a promo for the movie, and the promo was sufficiently bad that I turned the TV off. But I reconsidered. I am well aware that TV station promos for comedies, especially cult comedies, are often poorly done, even on a relatively prestigious channel. And it was, after all, a film from this year, and I do enjoy the ability to be halfway topical on occasion. And worse come to worse, I figured that even if it was stupid, it’s still a comedy, there’s probably still some enjoyment in it.
I’ve written before about how one of the saddest things about watching movies is when they disappoint you. This is still true even when you don’t have high expectations for a film. But there’s another form of disappointment as well, the kind of disappointment where you think you’ve already gone through the worst of things. I had thought, when I watched Not Another Not Another Movie back in June, that I had seen the worst movie I would see all year. I was mistaken in that impression. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie isn’t just the worst movie I’ve seen that was made in 2012, it’s the worst movie I’ve seen during 2012 as well — and as this is December, it doesn’t have a shortage of competition. It’s worse than the other new movies I’ve seen, it’s worse than all of the old movies I’ve seen. Yes, it’s even worse than Not Another Not Another Movie, and I have no idea how my life has gone so wrong that I’m able to say that.
I should have taken that promo at face value. That’s probably part of it.
At this point in the article, I’d normally insert a still frame from the film with some pithy quip. I’m not going to be doing so here. I wasn’t watching this on DVD or via a streaming service, so my usual screen capture options aren’t available to me. Normally, I’d search the internet for a few good pics, but in this case, I don’t want to stumble across anything by accident, and there are large stretches of this film that I do not want to see any frame of ever again.
Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie was written and directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. On their shoulders rests all the blame for this vanity project. The film stars Heidecker and Wareheim as themselves, a pair of losers who try to direct a film only to find themselves with fewer than three minutes of usable footage. I realize that sentence may be syntactically vague, leaving the reader with a question of whether the criticism there applies to their characters in the movie, or to the real actor-directors themselves. I assure you there is no ambiguity; the answer is “both”. In the film’s story, they blew a billion-dollar budget to make their movie and when it’s unusable they are expected to pay back the money to their financial backer, played by Robert Loggia. His assistant is played by William Atherton, and I find myself wondering what has happened to the careers of these fine actors that they find themselves here; neither deserves to be associated with a film this terrible.
Tim and Eric go on the run, and when trying to figure out how to pay the money back, they decide to revitalize a failed shopping mall run by Damien Weebs (Will Ferrell). I can see more easily how Ferrell got involved, as well as Zack Galifianakis and Will Forte; they’ve all shown some questionable decisions in the past, and these are all fairly small roles. But these roles are beneath even them; to give an idea of the level of characterization in this film, Ferrell’s character has a quirk of wanting to watch Top Gun repeatedly. That’s pretty much the entirety of the joke, beyond him wanting to scam people into taking over his mall. Sadly, those few seconds of Top Gun shown are some of the best moments of this film. The rest is taken up by things like John C. Reilly’s character “Taquito” — so named because he eats uncooked taquitos. Reilly has a habit of choosing downright terrible comedies to be in, but he’s shown in the past that he can be a very competent actor. Unfortunately, here his acting is limited to non-stop coughing and whining, and I do mean non-stop. Every second that Taquito is on-screen, Reilly is required to be hacking up a lung. I’d say that’s the level of comedy we’re dealing with here, but it actually goes several levels down from that.
The film was produced in part by internet comedy site “Funny or Die”; I’ve got bad news for them on that ultimatum. The best of the comedy here is simply stupid. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and aside from one moment near the very end involving a well-placed bullet (which did get a small laugh out of me), it is completely lacking in comic timing. The rest is absolute bottom-of-the-barrel toilet humor. To take a look at the mild end of things, one of the stores in the mall Tim and Eric are revitalizing was a used toilet paper store. Yes, a joke that gets a few tired groans from a group of fifth graders — not speaking hypothetically, I remember that being the group reaction when I first heard it at that age — is being used in an actual film that was actually released to theatres (albeit in a fairly limited run, it looks like.) That’s the mild end of things; it gets much, much worse. Tim and Eric seem to subscribe to the sophomoric notion that being outrageous is the same as being funny. It isn’t, of course. The two aren’t mutually incompatible, but there’s an art to it, and these guys do not practice that art. They just go straight for the vulgarity. I’ll provide an example. Those who are easily offended may wish to skip the next paragraph; assuming you haven’t already left, that is. It’s OK, I understand. If I could finish this review without writing it, I would.
During one scene, in which Tim and Eric are staying in a hotel room, in the same bed, Eric puts up his phone with a picture of a woman (Twink Caplan) who he saw in the ad the shopping mall placed to attract managers. With his best friend trying to sleep beside him, Eric begins to furiously masturbate. Thankfully this is under the covers, but when he’s done he reaches out to turn off the phone. Yes, we are shown his hand covered in spunk. Now, to make things perfectly clear, I am not selecting the worst scene in the whole film to make my point here. This is, at most, the third worst scene in the film. This is not a film to watch with a full stomach, unless your stomach can withstand an on-screen penis piercing and a multi-stream diarrhea shower with orchestral accompaniment.
The non-comedic elements of the film — or rather, those elements which are intentionally non-comedic — aren’t really any better. The plot is simplistic and bare-bones, and exists mainly to get the characters from one gross-out gag to the next. Michael Gross provides narration for the story which is absolutely unnecessary, as a little bit of dialogue would have made any pertinent details clear in a more entertaining fashion. Of course, as all characters’ motivations are kept subservient to the ability to make random jokes, the plot doesn’t hold up particularly well on its own right. Why does Will Forte’s character want to sabotage Tim and Eric? Because his sword shop is subsidized by not selling swords, which is a reason that fails to serve any goal of characterization, plot, or humor. It isn’t believable and it isn’t funny, and sadly it isn’t atypical in this film.
There were several times during this movie in which I asked myself why I was still watching. The only explanation I was ever able to come up with was that I could not justify not reviewing it once I knew how bad it was, and I had to see the whole thing to give an honest review. I watched the whole thing, and I’m writing an honest review, but I’m still not wholly satisfied with my answer. Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is not a film worth watching for any reason. It does not have good acting, good writing, good directing, good comedy, nor good taste. It’s not even worth watching if you want to watch a bad movie. There are movies out there which are objectively terrible, and maybe even more poorly crafted, but even Manos: The Hands of Fate is at least enjoyable in its badness. This film is not. There is simply no pleasure to be found in watching this picture.
As the year is coming to a close, there are already lists coming out decrying the worst in film this year. If somebody picks a film other than Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie as the worst film of 2012, I’m going to have to assume they simply haven’t seen it. I know Time Magazine has apparently picked Cloud Atlas; I don’t buy it. I’ve only seen the trailers of that film, but the trailers weren’t awful. Even if the rest of the film fails to live up to them, that means there’s at least two and a half minutes of good footage. That’s at least 2:20 more than Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.
It’s times like these I really question my decision to set a hard lower limit of 1 star on my ratings scale.