In the race to achieve unadulterated fourth-wall breakage, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is the new pack leader, so thoroughly absolving itself of any responsibility toward lucidity or coherence that it manages to operate on a relatively pure plane of blissed-out nonsensicality. An introductory advertisement hosted by Chef Goldblum (Jeff Goldblum) for the Schlaaang Corporation’s new theater seats, which inject users with drugs that help simulate a given movie’s emotions, immediately sets the bizarre tone, with Goldblum’s off-kilter facial contortions and weird half-beat line readings amplified by cheesy ‘80s-era video transitions and edits. In terms of strangeness, however, that’s only a minor opening salvo, since after a series of parodic Shlaaang production-credit logo cards, the real madness commences in the form of a three-minute movie headlined by a Johnny Depp imposter called “Bonjour Diamond Dan.” That cinematic atrocity, it’s soon revealed, is actually the movie that fame-courting morons Tim (Tim Heidecker) and Eric (Eric Wareheim)—their skin tanned, teeth bleached, and hair and goatees manicured to ludicrous degrees—made for Schlaaang head honcho Tommy Schlaang (Robert Loggia) for the hefty price of $1 billion. The reason these two morons were granted this opportunity in the first place remains a mystery throughout, but that’s the entire point of Billion Dollar Movie, which revels in distorting, synthesizing, and mocking narrative and aesthetic conventions to the point of mind-boggling abstraction.
With Schlaaang demanding repatriation for his squandered investment, Tim and Eric (the masterminds behind TV’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) fire their spiritual guru Jim Joe Kelly (Zach Galifianakis) and hightail it to Swallow Valley on the basis of a urinal advertisement promising a $1 billion profit for running the local mall. There, the owner Damian Weebs (Will Ferrell) turns out to be a blinking-crazy nutjob with a sickly man-child son, Taquito (John C. Reilly), as well as a mall overrun by the homeless and a ferocious wolf. Redubbing themselves Dobis PR (short for “Doing Business”), Tim and Eric set about their revitalization plans, an endeavor that finds Eric seeking love with celebrity balloon-stand operator Katie (Twink Caplan) and Tim turning the local used toiler paper salesman (Matt O’Toole) into a janitor and taking the man’s son (Noah Spencer) as his own. Such insanity involves frequent over-the-top grossness, including gratuitous penis-piercing close-ups and a sequence in which young children (at the urging of Ray Wise’s New Age guru) defecate on Eric in a bathtub until he’s submerged, though the writer/director/stars’ desire to outrageous, however committed, is hampered by the fact that said moments are often the least daring and funny parts of this stream-of-consciousness saga.
While Ferrell and, in particular, Reilly prove perfectly at home in this surrealist wonderland, it’s Tim and Eric’s dedication to mannered lunacy—from weird facial features and half-formed gestures to their shared fondness for played-straight, and yet highly self-conscious, awkwardness—that truly lends the proceedings its volatile energy. That verve bleeds into the action’s canny warping of VHS visuals and ‘80s promotional-video tropes, which, as in recurring interludes that feature two wacko old men reenacting scenarios that explicate the main plot’s themes, freakishly pay homage to the era’s cinematic and TV styles while also calling goofy attention to the storyline’s randomness-is-king stupidity. As befitting its hodgepodge nature, Billion Dollar Movie is a deliberately jagged ride that never quite settles into a consistent groove, except insofar as it generates comedic tension from unpredictability. Yet that sense of spontaneity nonetheless carries the film over its rougher patches, and often—through disgusting masturbation jokes, pedophilic insinuations, graphic sex acts, and a finale of lame-brained decapitations and more meta-twisty shenanigans—delivers such inspired inanity that the loopy film manages to feel as if it were gleefully tearing itself apart.