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Review: “Between Two Ferns” needs some edgework

This review contains spoilers for the Netflix’s “Between Two Ferns: The Movie.”

This one could use a trim. Netflix’s film adaptation and mockumentary of the popular web show “Between Two Ferns” gives plenty of shine to its star Zach Galifinakis but misses the clear potential to build more around him.

The interviews that Galifianakis—who plays a version of himself in the movie—hosts are nothing short of masterclasses in improvisational comedy. His purposely uncomfortable and mean-spirited questions are not only hysterical but also never fail to garner reactions of bemusement from his A-list guests like Matthew McConaughey, Brie Larson and Chance the Rapper. But do not worry, they are in on the joke, and some of Zach’s guests even return his verbal spars.

Surrounding Galifanakis is his trusty crew: cameraman Cam (Ryan Gaul), “Boom Boom” on sound (Jiavani Linayao), and his assistant Carol (Lauren Lapkus). Together, they are sent on a cross-country quest by Will Ferrell (also playing himself) to record ten episodes of his public access show, so Galifanakis can earn a real late-night talk show of his own.

Scott Aukerman, co-creator and executive producer of the internet series, is the film’s writer and director. His direction leaves none to be desired; all of the cast put their best foot forward, and no bad performances are to be found. Aukerman’s script provides quality satire on the inner workings of Hollywood and tons of self-deprecating humor all around.

Unfortunately, aside from the off-color interviews, the movie does not have much substance. The journey our heroes take does not feel entirely necessary since there is no reason to trek from North Carolina to California other than “it’s what the plot demands of them.” 

The film also falls victim to an overreliance on self-mocking humor (mostly targeting Galifanakis). He has sex with supermodel Chrissy Teigen, and it is played purely for laughs. The “ugly guy gets attractive woman” trope is not only outdated, but also incredibly unoriginal. Zach is a hilarious person and he should be allowed to actually be funny.

Not to mention, the severe waste of Zach’s team. There are interesting side plots established for them towards the beginning of the movie (Cam and Zach’s rivalry and a potential romance between Carol and Zach for instance) that are swept under the rug for quick laughs. The dynamic established between Zach and his “Fern Crew,” although entertaining to watch, also feels like something we have seen before—it is in the vain of Michael Scott to his employees at Dunder Mifflin Scranton.

All in all, this movie prospers when focusing on the interviews but leaves much to be desired “outside of the ferns.”


Photo Credit: Zach Galifianakis is the star of “Between Two Ferns: The Movie.” Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.