Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)

Between Two Ferns: The Movie is not wanting to be a whole lot more than it is. Which is just fine, because it’s not much. The hilarious web series on which it’s based features Zach Galafianakis as a bumbling boob of an interviewer, whose complete lack of self-awareness leads to inappropriate, insulting questions and awkwardness. His (apparently eager to participate) A-list celebrity subjects have ranged from Brad Pitt to Barack Obama. It’s a deliberately amateur presentation, complete with bad fonts, amusing misspellings and, ultimately, a charming critique of celebrity worship.

The film adaptation for Netflix is a road movie mockumentary. Following an ill-fated interview with Matthew McConaughey, and in a desperate bid to score a network talk show, Galafianakis and his loyal crew are forced to chase down a string of ten interviews in two weeks. Ultimately, this is what the movie is about: a throw-away premise as an excuse to string together a bunch of interviews, which are, of course, the highlights.

There is a delight in seeing the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tessa Thompson and Brie Larson feign embarrassment. (To Hailee Steinfeld: “you were in Pitch Perfect 2 and 3. Do you ever wish you were in the good one?”) However, there’s not much pleasure to be gained from a half-hearted attempt at character development (apparently Galafianakis learns what really matters in life), or from a limp break-through or two in the relationships among his crew. The resolution in particular is such a weak and hasty wrap-up that it’s obvious what writer-director Scott Aukerman and his star were thinking at this point: it’s just a silly comedy – who cares?

So, if you’re looking for an emotionally satisfying road movie, or even just a smartly crafted comedy, look elsewhere. But if you want to see more uncomfortable interviews with famous people, here they are. And if you’re short on time, you may also want to skip right to the end credits, where we see the bits when no one could keep their faces straight. To Tiffany Haddish: “you used to live in your car. Is it as fun as it sounds or is there a downside?”

Between Two Ferns: The Movie is streaming on Netflix now.

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