The heart-warming presence of Zach Galifianakis helps to alleviate the pain of a half-assed story that resides within “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”. If the goal of this movie was to tickle ardent fans of the comedian’s Internet show – it more or less does the job. However, strangers to “Between Two Ferns” won’t feel particularly encouraged to tune in.
Although Zach Galifianakis career skyrocketed after the role of Alan – a despicable idiot who put things in motion in “The Hangover” – the comedian worked hard to make a brand on his own, and to detach his bearded face from Todd Phillips’ comedy blockbuster.
And among more or less successful attempts, Galifianakis found his Klondike mine in the idea of an iconoclastic talk show where celebrities get butchered by the flat-out offensive attitude of the show’s host. This concept, served in a super low-budget, unprofessional and quirky sauce, and one frame including two ferns, grew into an ongoing YouTube series, with millions of views and die-hard fans.
It’s safe to say that Galifianakis built himself quite a cult, but was it enough reason to bring “Between Two Ferns” to a feature-film form?
I had my doubts, but I also had high hopes.
Scott Aukerman, the director and writer of the film, had a solid idea of making a staged documentary, which would show the backstage of both Galifianakis’ character and the show he hosts. Moreover, given how much of an expert Netflix is as a producer of documentary features, the two gentlemen knocked on the right door.
Finally, the actor’s brilliant comedy style, based on bringing out the most uncomfortable vibe possible, guaranteed at least a decent production.
The material was there.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) – The plot
Before I jump right to dissecting “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”, let’s clear things out in terms of the plot too. As the film’s character, Galifianakis hires a filming team in order to create “Behind The Ferns”, which takes a glimpse at the studio proudly called FAPTV (fictional network).
The story finds its real kickoff once Galifianakis destroys the entire studio, by accidentally flooding it while interviewing Matthew McConaughey. In order to make things right (and realise his dream about stardom as a late night show host), Galifianakis promises his producer (the Will Ferrell) to create 10 more episodes of his iconic show.
Structure-wise, this plot hardly gives reason to its existence, other than throwing some short bits from new interviews hosted by Galifianakis. No matter how hard Aukerman uses the on-the-road footage to hint at some character development efforts, neither the plot nor the characters draw enough attention (apart from Galifianakis). Setting aside a few okay-ish jokes they generate, none of Zach’s crew stays in your head longer than the minute they appear on the screen.
Another problem is how Aukerman introduces this bunch of close co-workers of Galifianakis – his laidback cameraman, a personal assistant and a bunch of other characters. It’s all done in a hurry. They multiply on-screen, and their abundance serves little to the plot’s development, simply because only three of them is actually required in the story. Others are basically figurants.
It’s clearly a one-man show, where the weight wasn’t too thought over, and balanced out.
Okay, so how is Zach Galifianakis in “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”?
He’s given plenty of time and opportunity to shine, and there’s no doubt he glues the wobbly elements all together.
Even at the film’s most worn-out moments (like a visit to Peter Dinklage’s house), Galifianakis stays in shape – he’s awfully arrogant, savagely straightforward and incredibly dumb, and that concoction is a bomb. In both the interviews and in the actual movie, Galifianakis owns this ridiculous stunt, and he’s (not to anybody’s surprise) the reason to watch it. Unless you’re a devoted fan, it might be better to just stick to his short interviews and skip the half-baked feature film like “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)
Dir. Scott Aukerman
Hate Grade: 5/10