This vehicle for whacked-out crazies Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim plays like Eraserhead Goes Shopping. And not in a good way.
It’ll be interesting to see the make-up of the audience for Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s live directors' commentary over screenings of their Billion Dollar Movie at London’s Prince Charles Cinema when it opens this weekend.
Will it mainly consist of students? American ex-pats? Snickering trendies? Comedy nerds? Idling tourists with an hour to kill? Sociologists specialising in Auto-Destructive Infantalism of the Modern Male? Or simply gleeful rubberneckers who have already heard tales of the mythic awfulness and elephantine incompetence that awaits them?
Because our duo – a cult hit on the Cartoon Network’s oft-baffling Adult Swim spin-off and regular contributors to Will Ferrell’s hit-and-miss Funny or Die web-shenanigans – would seem to have taken their purported avant garde anti-humour to its natural conclusion with one of the most shamefully indulgent, crass, loud, feculent, annoying and genuinely poor films you will see in a cinema this year. That they seem to have done so on purpose would appear to be part – if not all – of the joke.
Presumably, then, the heckling and walk-outs that greeted a recent screening of the film at the Sundance Film Festival must have lit the filmmakers up like pinball machines. Good for them, because when the dust settles around this pile of kamikaze garbage, it’s unlikely that they’ll be indulged to this level ever again.
All of which will no doubt have the freethinking contrarians and wild-eyed infidels amongst you rubbing your hands with anticipation, imagining that this is just the kind of iconoclastic gonzo humour that makes your particularly wayward and misaligned antennae thrum with wonder. But even those who see themselves as "whacked-out crazies" are likely to be proved wrong by a film with one or two wild ideas but of very few laughs at all.
It’s built more around shouting, scurf and extreme violence toward pensioners more than an actual plot. It follows our portly heroes as they lose a billion dollars of mob money making a two-minute film called Bonjour, Diamond Jim with a third-tier Johnny Depp impersonator (one of the few adequately played moments of the entire film).
Hounded out of Tinseltown, they catch an ad on TV that promises a billion dollars to anyone who can turn around the fortunes of the ailing S’Wallow Valley Mall, a consumerist DMZ that contains such outlets for comedy dynamite as a Used Toilet Paper concession, a health spa based around pre-pubescent boys spraying its clients with diarrhoea from their own backsides and John C. Reilly as a homeless, disease-raddled man-child who is ultimately gnawed to death by a wolf.
Bargain-basement guff, to be sure, but – the Niagara of faeces aside – no worse a set–up than many other cheapjack mall–based comedies serve up.
But the crack’d comic prism through which Tim & Eric project every single line of dialogue, every character, every plot strand and performance maroons the film in a uniquely perturbing netherworld of semi-anaesthetised disorientation that resembles a nihilistic child’s dream downloaded onto a VHS tape and soundtracked by twisting metal. It’s Eraserhead Goes Shopping and it’s not very nice at all.
Tim who? Eric who? Billion Dollar what now?
Less like David Lynch directing Mallrats than Kevin Smith directing Mulholland Drive.
A nauseating child’s nightmare of Sisyphean despair.