They say comedy is subjective, but watching the mirthless antics of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim for 90 minutes is like subjecting oneself to unnecessary punishment. To endure it is akin to humoring your depressed middle-aged friend when he enrolls in an improv class and then uncomfortably shifting in your seat during the interminable "graduation" show.
The duo, who mysteriously have a cult following, practice what can best be described as anti-comedy, where uncomfortable, gross and sophomoric material is pushed beyond the breaking point and then left there to rot. What hardly works as short sketches on their late-night show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim becomes intolerable at feature length: a toxic swamp clogged with undernourished ideas that tangle around any good gags and drag them under.
Their act is so conceptual and intent on malicious deconstruction that it sounds funnier to describe it than to actually view it. The plot, to the extent that it matters, finds Tim an Eric in hock to the mob financiers of their failed attempt at a motion picture; a mega-costly debacle that involved Parisian locales, a suit made entirely out of precious diamonds, and a Johnny Depp impersonator. Being morons, Tim and Eric decide that the best way to pay off their huge debt is to take jobs managing a dilapidated shopping mall, one filled with empty storefronts, drunks, derelicts and, randomly, a feral wolf. The few pathetic shops left open in this mess include a "used toilet paper warehouse." (Hardy-har-har.) Most of the "humor" is propped up on silly words "Schlaaang" and "Shirm," dirty talk, violence, sex toys and a steady stream of bodily fluids, including a bathtub full of what can best be called "Santorum."
Fans of vulgar absurdity will be in hog heaven. The flick is populated by a variety of freaks, weirdoes and big names making cameos, such as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, the usually funny John C. Reilly and the never-funny Will Forte. I did get a smile at seeing a number of wacky '80s screen heavies: Ray Wise, William Atherton and Robert Loggia, all still overemoting to beat the band. Also smirk-worthy is Eric's crush on a middle-aged woman (Twink Caplan), a character that in any other film would be played by a cute young chippie. Acknowledging that a joke exists is very different from actually laughing at one.
Self-styled comedy anarchists, Tim and Eric were reportedly gleeful at mass audience walkouts during a recent Sundance screening, and they probably delight in savage reviews, bearing them with pride. Well, congrats, guys: You suck.
Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, and Thursday, March 29, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3030; $5.
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