By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
Funny people who create in the brief format of sketch comedy or YouTube-long videos have their work cut out for them, should they be fortunate enough to land a feature-film deal.
Witness, for instance, the team of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, who gained quick cult success thanks to their segment of the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” program. Sometimes funny, sometimes not, the sketches from “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job” were distinguished by their lacerating parody and surrealism.
Keeping that kind of thing going for 90 minutes is extremely challenging, and the evidence for that is on display in “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie,” an uneven and frequently revolting feature.
The movie means to be revolting, you understand; that’s part of this brand of anti-comedy. But it goes on a bit long.
Tim and Eric, playing themselves or whatever, are under threat from a Hollywood studio: They will be killed unless they pay back the billion dollars they spent making a terrible three-minute movie starring a Johnny Depp lookalike.
Somehow this leads to them traveling to a Midwest shopping mall to assume management of the dilapidated, wolf-infested place. The mall owner is played by Will Ferrell, who has some inspired moments channeling his inner madman.
Also good, if gruesome, is John C. Reilly, who plays a very peculiar hanger-on at the mall. The rest of the cast is filled out with a few celebrity cameos and some eccentric nonprofessionals.
The parodies of TV commercials are fine, and there are excursions into the comedy of embarrassment that are dead-on. Otherwise, the gross-out scatological humor seems inspired not so much by naughty glee as by contempt, and there’s a rancid undertone to pretty much all the jokes, which really grinds you down after a while.
I give Heidecker and Wareheim credit: It takes a lot of nerve to steer a course that so completely shuns audience affection. Unlike most comedians, they don’t need to be loved. In fact, they’d rather horrify you. “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is destined to succeed in that regard.
“Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” (1½ stars)
Cartoon Network sketch comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have a tough time stretching out their parodies and scatological humor to feature length, starring here (with help from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) as guys convinced that running a mall with net them a billion dollars. They mean to horrify you with this film, and (acknowledging some funny moments), they will.
Rated: R for language, violence, nudity, subject matter.