It’s a good week to laugh at the movies, folks. Whether you’re a child, rowdy teen, or semi-sane adult, there’s at least one comedy geared to your special needs. If you’re a fan of outsider art and comedy that inspires the use of acronyms like WTF, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie promises a comedy experience completely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. You might not like it, but you’re guaranteed never to forget.
Sadly, if you are a small child or have one in your possession, it’s not exactly an appropriate choice. But thankfully Hollywood has gone and CGI-ed up Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (in 3D, no less), so that should suit you just fine.
And finally, if you’re a rowdy teen whose passions are limited to drinking beer, looking at boobs, or doing both at the same time, then you’re going to want to run out to Project X. Beer and boobs are pretty well all that movie has to offer (which is only kind of a bad thing).
Regardless of which group you fall into, you’re going to be laughing yourself silly this weekend. And if none of these options appeal to you because you’re more of a rom-com person, hang tight. There’s a solid one of those on the way next week as well. The good people of Los Angeles are determined to make us all giggle right now. They must be trying to cheer up all of those recent Oscar losers.
The Good: Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
In a week where the two major releases are a Dr. Seuss rehash and yet another movie trying to wring profits out of teens behaving badly, we should all be thrilled that something as wildly subversive as Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is also flickering on neighboring screens. It’s the feature debut of writers/directors/comedians/crazy people Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, who carved out a niche audience with their cult hit Adult Swim shows Tom Goes to the Mayor and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
Their feature-length debut makes no attempt to dial down their unique brand of humor for the uninitiated. Picture what would happen if David Lynch and David Cronenberg were hired to co-direct the latest SNL spin-off movie with an NC-17 rating and you still won’t quite grasp the dark 'n' twisted hilarity by these two twisted talents and genuine original voices. It’s a movie that will leave audiences split down the middle into the thrilled and disgusted camps. I’ve got a feeling that T&E wouldn’t have it any other way.
I guess this is the part of the review where there should be a plot description. This isn’t going to make much sense out of context (not that it makes much more sense in context), but I’ll try. The film stars Tim and Eric are surreal fictitious versions of themselves. They were given a billion dollars to make a movie by an insane gangster, but blew it all on diamond suits and disgusting Hollywood makeovers. They end up with a three-minute movie and obviously the gangster isn’t thrilled, so he demands his money back.
Luckily enough, they catch an infomercial from a wacko Will Ferrell character looking for two guys to run his rundown mall and collect an inevitable billion dollar paycheck. They decide to take a risk and end up with a place filled with useless stores, a feral man raised by wolves (John C. Reilly), and a mildly attractive middle-aged woman who Tim and Eric instantly fall for. The surreal story keeps trucking from there, but don’t expect any sort of conventional closure. This isn’t that type of movie.
Describing Tim and Eric’s unique brand of comedy is practically impossible. It’s a weird concoction of gross-out gags, disturbing themes, satirically corny filmmaking, nutball celebrity cameos, horrific undertones, and a supporting cast of genuine eccentrics who probably shouldn’t be on camera. Simply put, it’s unlike anything that hasn’t been made by Tim and Eric (in fact, if there’s any major complaint I have about the movie, it’s that it’s a little too similar to their Awesome Show, but that’s splitting hairs and I’m sure they’ll go for something radically different next time).
However, in a filmmaking landscape that’s constantly starved for originality, something this deeply odd and unique slipping onto screens is practically a miracle. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is something that demands to be seen by anyone with a sweet tooth for the bizarre and a love of experimental comedy. Hopefully it won’t be the last time these two comedy geniuses get a chance to play around in the world of movies.
No matter how many viewers they alienate (and plenty will be left scratching their heads) those who enjoy the avante garde comedic odyssey will get a cinematic high that will last for months. And, damn it, we need that. Everyone else gets Two and a Half Men every week — can’t we get at least one twisted picture like this per year? Say it with me now, Shrim! Don’t worry, you’ll get it when you see the movie and you’ll be disgusted, but in a good way. Not like, say
The Bad: Project X
The Hangover director Todd Phillips slips into the producer’s chair to supervise the latest entry in the seemingly endless stream of found footage movies to slither onto screens (it seems like the only way that Hollywood is willing to finance a low budget movie these days is if it has the found footage conceit). On the plus side, this movie actually feels like something teens might bother to obsessively film.
It’s about the ultimate out of control high school house party. Thomas is turning 17 and his parents just happen to be going out of town that night as well, so his buddy Costa decides it’s time for them to move up in the high school social ladder with one hell of a party. It starts out well with DJs, topless girls and, hookups with longtime crushes for the protagonists, but eventually the thing turns into a riot.
Project X isn’t some sort of Apatow movie that tries to sneak in a backdoor satire about male culture amidst 90 minutes of bad behavior. Nope, this is a bro movie made by bros and for bros. How much you’ll enjoy it really depends on how much you enjoy getting wasted on the weekends. The movie is really just a love letter to teen parties with only minor stabs at emotional growth for the characters or much sense of consequence for all the anarchy. It will be a beloved movie for high school seniors and frat boys who dream of throwing the like biggest and most awesome party ever. However, adults (particularly parents and homeowners) will be stuck scratching their heads and they’ll eventually look back on the movie and wonder why they loved it so much.
Animal House remains a classic comedy even outside of drunken college years because it is incredibly well cast, written, and directed, not too mention deceptively intelligent and packed with more jokes than the green room at a Friar's roast. Project X is a more mediocre ode to drunken immaturity that, like a house party, seems like the greatest thing in the world while it’s happening, but is put into perspective as a silly waste of time pretty quickly following the next day’s hangover.
The Lorax: Um...The Lorax
As someone who was once a child, I love Dr. Seuss. Find me anyone in the Western hemisphere who doesn’t and I’ll show you a liar. So it’s not at all surprising that Hollywood would want to try and translate that near universal Dr. Seuss goodwill into money-gobbling family blockbusters. The problem is that his brief picture books don’t exactly translate into 90-minute stories. Sure, Chuck Jones’ animated short How the Grinch Stole Christmas perfectly captured that work, but entirely because it was just as long as the story needed to be.
The good doctor made sure no disastrous feature length adaptations of his work were made during his lifetime to soil the memories of his young fans. However, the man sadly couldn’t live forever and Hollywood producers have been collecting piles of money and dancing on his grave ever since Jim Carrey’s disastrous turn as The Grinch in 2000. This year, it’s Suess’s environmental yarn The Lorax that gets the big screen treatment and while the story does at least have some weighty themes better suited to feature-length expansion, it is ultimately another example of why Seuss’s work should really be left on the page.
The film is about a boy (voiced by Zac Efron sigh) who is desperate to impress a pretty girl (Taylor Swift double sigh) by bringing trees back to a filthy 'n' polluted city where even fresh air is for sale. Doesn’t sound like The Lorax, does it? That’s because the source material is so short, it’s all relegated to flashback material.
The boy soon meets the crusty hermit the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who came to a lush forest and destroyed it to produce useless products for profit. He was warned by the cuddly voice of nature, the Lorax (Danny DeVito, no sighs needed), but didn’t listen. However, he’s got one seed left that the boy brings back to his town and battles for the population’s sympathy with the local business mogul Mr. O’Hare to plant the tree and start over. Plus Betty White plays a goofy grandmother because she had an unexpected resurgence in popularity when the voices were being cast.
In the end, this is more of a pop culture-obsessed CGI family blockbuster than a true adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s classic work. The film comes from Despicable Me’s director Chris Renaud and feels closer to that project than the source material. Sure, the designs are indebted to Seuss, but his iconic fish (you know, from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) are a silent slapstick Greek chorus like the strange little aliens from Despicable Me.
The Lorax features all of the gutter gags, pop culture references, and irritating musical numbers from that movie as well, awkwardly grafted onto Seuss’s story and adding nothing but empty calories. I suppose it’ll be a pleasant enough watch for the kids in the crowd, but anyone hoping to relive a little childhood nostalgia will have the memories stomped on rather than thrillingly brought to life.
There are far worse family movies dumped into theaters every month, so it’s a mistake to be too harsh on this movie. However, with Dr. Seuss’s name above the title, we should be able to expect a little more than thoroughly average Hollywood entertainment.