“Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is uncomfortable, hilarious and a good way to waste an hour and a half.
For viewers who have never seen the internet series, Zach Galifianakis hosts a low-to-no-budget YouTube show featuring celebrities (ranging from Tila Tequila to then-President Barack Obama) in awkward deadpan interviews.
Galifianakis asks questions that are occasionally offensive and always uncomfortable. Sometimes the celebrities will answer earnestly, and sometimes they play into the awkwardness.
For example, at one point in the movie, Galifianakis is interviewing Keanu Reeves (who the on-screen graphic calls “Keanu Reefs” from “Bill or Ted”) and asks him if he does research for his on-screen roles.
“Have you ever considered researching a character that has taken acting classes,” Galifianakis asks.
“Right now I’m acting like this is fun,” Reeves replies. “How am I doing?”
The movie hosts a number of high-profile cameos including Matthew McConaughey, Chance the Rapper, Brie Larson, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, John Cho, Paul Rudd, John Legend, Jon Hamm, Hailee Steinfeld, Awkwafina, Tiffany Haddish, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tessa Thompson, Peter Dinklage, Gal Gadot and legendary interviewer David Letterman (who Galifianakis refers to as “Santa Clause with an eating disorder”).
Most of the movie’s interviews are just setups for awkward, often incredibly funny deadpan jokes. However, some of the interviews, like the one with John Legend, are genuinely uncomfortable. In an interesting, somewhat unsettling reversal of the formula, Galifianakis becomes as awkward as a typical guest, while Legend is just excited to be there.
The movie takes the form of a mockumentary to stitch the interviews together. In it, “Between Two Ferns” is a public-access TV show Galifianakis hosts. Will Ferrell plays himself as a coked-up bully who found Galifianakis’ show and uploaded it to his website Funny-or-Die, of which Ferrell is a real-life founder.
“His show’s success is absolutely predicated on the fact that people are laughing at him, not with him,” Ferrell says.
After a major accident at the TV station, Ferrell gives Galifianakis a goofy, genie-like promise of a lifetime talk show — that is, a talk show on the network Lifetime — if he can deliver ten episodes of “Between Two Ferns” in two weeks. The rest of the movie is a cross-country trip to score interviews with celebrities.
Galifianakis’ brings his TV crew — Carol Hunch (Lauren Lapkus), Cameron “Cam” Campbell (Ryan Gaul) and “Boom Boom” De Laurentis (Jiavani Linayao) — with him on the road. All three of the actors have their moments, but Lapkus’ over the top, stoic performance really shines.
The plot is dumb and full of deadpan slapstick gags, but despite some good jokes, the wrapping is mostly just that — a plot device to justify putting a bunch of small “Between Two Ferns” clips together.
The best part of the movie comes after everything has wrapped up. As the credits roll, the movie plays bloopers from the interviews which are as funny as — if not funnier than — the finished product itself.
Aside from leaving me close to crying from laughing so hard, the clips also highlight how impressive it is that Galifianakis and his guests can keep straight faces through all the ridiculous lines they deliver.
Anyone who has seen any previous episodes of “Between Two Ferns” will probably know how they’re going to feel about this movie — it’s more of the same gimmick, but the gimmick still lands.
“Between Two Ferns: The Movie” was released on Sept. 20, and is available to stream exclusively on Netflix.