Playing an even more clueless version of himself, Zach Galifianakis takes his successful Funny or Die series on the road, roasting celebrity after celebrity in his quest to land a real late-night TV talk-show.
If you've never seen the internet series "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis," you're in luck: All of the episodes are still available on Funny or Die, and they're a hoot, if you dig Galifianakis's uncomfortable brand of humor. The premise is pretty simple: Zach sits down with huge celebrities (he's interviewed everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Brad Pitt, to Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama), and then insults them with terribly offensive (and hilarious) and clueless questions. The actors are of course in on the joke, but also playing versions of themselves, appear to be angered, annoyed or uninterested in Zach's immature banter.
The show also pokes fun at its own production value, with name graphics using a digital font from the early days of computers and often misspelling the guests names, and if you look closely you'll notice that the lav microphones used in the interviews are often duct taped on to the subject's shirt. And while this is all pretty low-brow on the surface, this is of course all a very clever form of satire, with Galifianakis and crew really poking fun not only at the whole idea of celebrity itself, but also the ridiculously artificial and meaningless interviews that make up a good portion of their public lives.
In the new film simply titled, "Between Two Ferns: The Movie," we get to go "behind the ferns" to see Zach's life making his show - the seventh-rated show at his Public Access channel - and we're finally let in on how the heck he lands these interviews in the first place. Will Ferrell - one of the founders of Funny or Die - is imagined (?) as a narcissistic, coke-snorting elitist is Zach's boss, and he is able to convince all of his celebrity friends to come on the show. But early in the film, when a leaky pipe in the studio leads to the (spoiler alert!) death of "Ferns" guest Matthew McConaughey, Galifianakis takes his show on the road, with Ferrell promising him a real TV late-night talk show if he can produce 10 more episodes of "Ferns" by his arbitrary deadline. Hilarity, as they say, ensues.
The movie is littered with big name cameos and guests on Zach's traveling show, and much of the fun of the film is in seeing them appear, so I won't spoil all of the names here. Appropriately, the movie is at its best when it is "between two ferns," as most of the stuff happening outside of the studio setting - with Zach traveling around with a few of his fictional Public Access co-workers - is much less effective. But with a mere 82-minute run-time, Zach and gang don't overstay their welcome, and they offer lots of laughs for those already familiar with the brand.
Perhaps the best part of the movie is the end credits, when outtakes reveal just how hard it is for both the actors and Galifianakis to keep a straight-face during all of the show's absurdity. "Between Two Ferns: The Movie" may not be ground-breaking, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun.
Run Time: 1 hour 22 minutes.
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Lauren Lapkus, Will Ferrell.
Co-Written and Directed by Scott Aukerman (feature-film debut, he's directed 15 episodes of "Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis" for Funny or Die).
"Between Two Ferns: The Movie" is available on NETFLIX on Friday, September 20th, 2019.
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