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PARK CITY — At least you can’t accuse them of selling out: The feature-length debut of cult comics Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim is untainted by commercial pandering, watered-down sensibilities, or, well, anything else that might make it palatable to those who aren’t already crazy for the duo. In fact, even some confirmed fans may walk away convinced that web shorts and Adult Swim micro-shows are the maximum recommended dosage for these mood-altering auteurs.
Like the short-form work that has drawn them a cult, Billion Dollar Movie (which the pair wrote and directed) obsesses over the found-art surrealism of Middle American amateur-produced video and ill-conceived entrepreneurialism: It fetishizes the out-of-sync sound and clunky FX of no-budget promo videos; it dwells on the awkward silences following non-sequitur sales pitches.
Here, the comedians weave this aesthetic flotsam into a plot taking them to a shopping mall more desolate than the one beset by zombies in Dawn of the Dead: Having squandered the billion-dollar budget they were given to make a movie, the boys (playing clueless versions of themselves) try to repay the cash by reviving a shopping center for a desperate manager (Will Ferrell) who swears it’s a gold mine.
Grotesquerie abounds here, in the form of a malformed caretaker (John C. Reilly, a feverish lackey full of phlegm and snot) and businesses like a mom & pop used-toilet-paper dealership. Things get more disgusting, by a factor of ten, but only late enough in the running time that viewers still in their seats can’t claim they weren’t prepared.
Auds attuned to Tim & Eric’s weird wavelength will find plenty of guffaws in the first half, but a plot this thin can’t sustain comedy based on discomfort; the film is so much of a good thing one starts to wonder if the thing is good in the first place. Like big-screen ventures from trailblazing comedy troupes like Mr. Show and the Kids in the Hall, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie will likely wind up a long-form footnote to a brilliantly strange short-form career.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Park City at Midnight (Magnet)
Production Companies: 2929 Productions, Funny or Die, Absolutely
Cast: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, William Atherton, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia, Ray Wise
Directors-screenwriters: Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim
Producers: Adam Mckay, Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy, Ben Cosgrove, Todd Wagner, Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Dave Kneebone, Jon Mugar
Executive Producer: Mark Cuban
Director Of Photography: Rachel Morrison
Production Designer: Rosie Sanders
Music: Davin Wood
Costume Designers: Diana Contreras, Mindy Le Brock
Editors: Daniel Haworth, Doug Lussenhop
Rated R, 94 Minutes
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