Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)
director: scott aukerman | runtime: 1h 22mins | comedy
When Zach Galifianakis accidentally floods his Public Access studio, his small chat-show Between Two Ferns is put on hold. However, eccentric Funny or Die President Will Ferrell demands 10 more shows, meaning Zach and his small crew must go on the road in search of celebrities.
Through the overwhelming amount of quaint content that floods both our TVs and the Internet, a recent trend is the alternative talk-show, shows that hold the same principle of the late-nighters while trying to give it a different spin. The standouts are Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (2012-) for it’s charm and appreciation for comedy, as well as the absurd The Eric Andre Show (2012-) that finds humour in subjecting real celebrities to an unorthodox interview and even sometimes physical pain. Among these gems is Zach Galifianakis’ hilarious Between Two Ferns (2008-), that drifts between fiction and reality and allows the comedic talents of it’s host to create the facade of real interviews, but portrays them at their worst. As a talk-show though, it seems strange to give it it’s own feature presentation.
The film is actually a strong starter, using a mockumentary style to capture the sad picture that is Zach Galifianakis’ life, as a small-time talk show host with dreams of being as big as David Letterman and Jonny Carson and having his own late-night talk show. Follow this up with a trademark interview involving Matthew McConaughey, in which he drowns, what you have a promising start that can hopefully find a balance in it’s already doomed premise. But unfortunately, the Hollywood treatment really begins to suffer as it tries to find bulk in a story that feels pointless and extremely tiresome.
Thankfully, the movie is broken up by a number of hilarious interviews including the likes of: Chance the Rapper, Brie Larson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Dinklage, Paul Rudd, David Letterman and probably the funniest interview, John Legend. All of these segments are true taste of what both the TV show and it’s host offer comedically, the simplicity, the absurdity and the uniqueness are all expressions of why Galifianakis’ show has been successfully running since 2008. But the problem is that these short segments are the highlight of the film, which begs the ongoing question – what’s the point in the rest? From Galifianakis’ altercations with Ferrell, and even a one night stand with Chrissy Teigen, these highlights don’t come close the hilarity that’s produced between two simple ferns, and in doing so adds this film to a long list of features based on TV shows that struggle to find the balance.
Despite it’s lack of relevance, this is still funny thanks to one of the strongest comedic actors working today, Zach Galfianakis. His delivery and ability to mix both verbal and physical comedy have made him extremely successful since The Hangover (2009), and while the whole cast are trying their best, the show really does live and die with it’s star. The point in this version of Zach is that there is likability in his awfulness, riffing off of his celebrity guests with uninterested and bumbling questions, or even trying to steal fabrege eggs from another great fictionalised version of themself, Peter Dinklage. It’s this uncomfortable likability that really makes the character, or host, resonate with you and remind you just why Galifianakis became such a big star 10 years ago.
While this seems like a nifty idea the film can’t escape it’s originator’s high-concept quaintness which, while giving moments are hilarity, leaves this films relevance questionable at best. It does manage to stay afloat for the most part though, with it’s leading star pulling out all the stops for the jokes as well as some supporting performances from Will Ferrell and Lauren Lapkus getting a laugh. If anything though it will be a bittersweet reminder of just how great the TV show is, but as for the film, it really struggles to step out from between the ferns and justify the Hollywood treatment it’s receiving.