Amateurish and gleefully stupid but sometimes outright hilarious, the biggest joke here is that this ridiculously cheesy “billion dollar movie” looks like it was shot for a couple of bucks and loose change. When it’s not funny, which is most of the time, it seems insultingly interminable. But there’s such a wide variety of weirdness in this bizarre buffet that everyone will find at least a couple of things to like.
Directors/writers Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (stars of the Cartoon Network sketch comedy series Tim and Eric Awesome Show – Great Job!) are fumbling fugitive filmmakers who try managing an absurdly awful abandoned shopping mall. That’s where they hope to make back the billion-dollar budget they blew making a box-office bomb, so they can repay the furiously violent gangster (Robert Loggia) who financed the thing.
Will Ferrell, John C Reilly and Zach Galifianakis appear in small but scene-stealing cameo roles. Ferrell is the Top Gun-obsessed con man who entices Tim and Eric to run the bankrupt mall, which includes such businesses as Reggie’s Used Toilet Paper Discount Warehouse. Reilly is hilariously pathetic as a wolf-raised mall dweller named Taquito, who proclaims “I’m not meant to live long” after coughing up blood. Galifianakis is braids-wearing poet, screenwriter and spiritual guru Jim Joe Kelly. Saturday Night Live‘s Will Forte has an uncredited part as the perpetually angry proprietor of a store called EZ Swords.
Tim and Eric transform themselves from Hollywood hipsters to uniform-wearing representatives of what they call the Dobis (for “Doing Business”) PR firm. Their over-the-top motivational presentation to the mall’s unlovely and unimpressed tenants is a tour de force of awkward arrogance.
The film features lots of low-budget video effects, cutaways to odd “Understanding Your Movie” segments, commercial parodies and fourth-wall-breaking asides. The humor ranges from the innocently silly to the extremely scatological. Ray Wise, looking not a day older than when he played Laura Palmer’s father two decades ago on Twin Peaks, plays the owner of a “healing center” where the secret therapeutic ingredient is expelled from the backsides of boys who are fed only “the finest, softest meat.” Eating before, during or for several hours after this scene is not recommended.
The film as a whole is flagrantly dumb and occasionally outright disturbing, but definitely memorable. What’s strange is that parts of it actually seem funnier in hindsight than at the theater. It’s possible to imagine someone telling a friend the next day that the movie was simultaneously terrible but not that bad.
And you’re guaranteed never to forget the word “shrim” afterward, no matter how hard you may try.
[Rating: 3 stars]