Quarantine Film Diary – Day 13 – Between Two Ferns: The Movie

Stuck in the Czech Republic as a result of a travel ban announced after the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I watch one random film a day until the travel ban is lifted to keep some of my sanity intact.

Between Two Ferns is a short-form online talk show hosted by actor Zach Galifianakis. He plays the role of an irreverent and incompetent host, interviewing celebrities who act as if they are not part of the joke. This online series was hosted by the Funny Or Die comedy website, and became quite a sensation when it first debuted. Ten years later, Galifianakis and co-creator Scott Aukerman celebrated this special anniversary by creating a feature film for Netflix that revolved around this fictitious talk show.

However, neither man seem to know quite what to do with the film, which starts as a behind-the-scenes mockumentary and later becomes a half-hearted Blues Brothers-style road trip about a team on a mission. The film, in fact, sees Zach and his team setting off on a road trip to record ten episodes of the show with ten different celebrities. The purpose of this trip is to fulfill a request from Will Ferrell, co-founder of Funny or Die, and playing a wicked version of himself. If Zach will succeed, he will get his own network television talk show – which, we are told, has been his dream ever since he was a child.

Aside from the cast of celebrities – none of whom are mindblowingly famous or interesting with the exception of David Letterman – the film offers nothing that is either new or special. There is none of the car-crash or deadpan appeal of Between Two Ferns; without improvisation and spontaneity, the life is choked right out of the concept.

Galifianakis certainly has one of the most recognizable and strong comedic personas of his generation. Yet, there is nothing much that even he can do to save this vanity project, which quickly falls into pitiful self-parody. The script is certainly the problem; had both he and Aukerman relied more on the charming simplicity of their initial concepts and all the elements that made it so beloved, things could have gone differently.

BETWEEN TWO FERNS: THE MOVIE | Director – Scott Aukerman | Writer – Zach Galifianakis, Scott Aukerman | Starring – Zach Galifianakis | USA | 2019

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