Sundance 2012 Showdowns | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

January 19, 2012 News » Cover Story

Sundance 2012 Showdowns 

More bang for your film buck

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Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Park City at Midnight)


Premise: Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim squander a billion dollars that they were supposed to use to make a movie, then try to make the money back to avoid the wrath of a sinister, giant corporation. Their plan: Revive a dying shopping mall.

Track Record: Tim and Eric are best known for their sketch-comedy show Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, which ran for five seasons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Their absurd, low-budget sketch comedy boasts many hard-core fans, alongside those who don’t get it and those who’ve never heard of it.

Familiar Faces: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Zach Galifianakis, Jeff Goldblum, Will Forte.

The Case in Favor: When they’re on, these guys can be extremely funny. And they’ve got a collection of experienced movie actors to help them navigate their first feature film.

The Case Against: Tim and Eric take a lot of chances and like to experiment, which isn’t bad. But when they fail, even a two-minute sketch can feel long. It remains to be seen whether these madmen can control a feature-length project.


The Comedy (U.S. Dramatic)


Premise: Not the laugh riot that the title and cast might suggest, The Comedy studies the lives of aimless, entitled hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Heidecker plays an apathetic, born-rich layabout who wastes his days with his friends, mocking sincerity and turning everything ironic. All existing plot descriptions say these aging losers engage in “acts of recreational cruelty and pacified boredom.”

Track Record: You probably haven’t seen writer/director Rick Alverson’s first two films, The Builder (2010) and New Jerusalem (2011), unavailable on DVD. They’re reportedly meditative and spacious, so don’t expect a fast-moving plot. Alverson also fronts a band called Spokane.

Familiar Faces: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Gregg Turkington (aka Neil Hamburger), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem).

The Case in Favor: Sometimes there’s no better way to get serious points across than by coating them with a layer of humor. And furthering the tension, the comedians acting in the film often employ the kind of irony that the film reportedly critiques.

The Case Against: Sundance films about people who live pointlessly and aimlessly often turn out to be pointless and aimless themselves.

The Verdict: The Comedy. It could be a middling bore or a self-important trainwreck, and Billion Dollar Movie could be hilarious. Fans of Tim and Eric—as well as people hoping for an all-star thriller of a Q&A—should hit Billion Dollar Movie, but since it’s coming out theatrically March 3, go ahead and take a chance on the lower-profile film without a distributor. (JM)


Bachelorette (Premieres)


Premise: Kirsten Dunst’s character got all the attention in high school, but now she’s a bridesmaid—for a woman she used to call Pig Face. She and two friends who also ridiculed the bride accept their duties and embark on a wild, raunchy bachelorette party.

Track Record: In 2010, writer/director Leslye Headland was a staff writer on the short-lived TV series Terriers; this is her first film. Will Ferrell and his longtime collaborator Adam McKay produced the project.

Familiar Faces: Kirsten Dunst, James Marsden, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Adam Scott, Rebel Wilson.

The Case in Favor: Dunst never fails to engage her audience, and is due for a moment to shine in an edgy comedy. Factor in her able co-stars, and there’s potential for big laughs.

The Case Against: As evidenced by last year’s Our Idiot Brother, a promising cast doesn’t always make a great film. Bachelorette needs to convince us that these women would accept their bridesmaid duties. Plus, dirty humor is a delicate art. If the tone isn’t quite right, the filmmakers end up flailing about, slinging obscenities with no sense of gags or comedic rhythm.


Save the Date (U.S. Dramatic)


Premise: A wedding serves as a powder keg in the lives of two very different sisters—one getting married, the other on a post-breakup rebound. As the ceremony nears, the sisters each go on an emotional journey and (this is just a guess) learn some life lessons.

Track Record: Filmmaker Michael Mohan was at Sundance in 2010 with One Too Many Mornings, which played in the low-budget sidebar NEXT. He now graduates to the main competition, boasting a film made with more resources and better-known actors.

Familiar Faces: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr

The Case in Favor: Fans of the cancelled Starz TV series Party Down will be pleased to see Caplan and Starr, but they might be equally pleased to see Caplan and Scott in Bachelorette.

The Case Against: There could be a lot of drama stirred up with no real purpose. If the film serves as a juxtaposition between two characters, it'd better get those characterizations right.

The Verdict: Based on the descriptions, we have in Bachelorette a broad comedy focused on one raunchy night, and a more deliberate character-based comedy in Save the Date. I’m going to call this one for Bachelorette, if only because of a deep-seated belief that the likes of The Hangover and Bridesmaids can still be outdone. (JM)

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