I was at university when Between Two Ferns started, which was perfect timing. I spent all my free time on the internet and, as an English literature major, I had plenty of free time. It was as if it has been tailored my sense of humour. I was a huge fan of awkwardness and making people uncomfortable. So, watching Zach Galifianakis play the role of an awkward interviewer was perfect. Of course, it’s good that the show didn’t run on for years and years because it’s the kind of premise that would have got tired very quickly. So the announcement that there would be a movie spin-off was interesting. We know from the likes of SNL that short skits don’t translate well into a longer form. Which is probably the reason that I’m only just getting round to watching it now.
Although, I have actually seen bits of the film. I’ve seen clips of the actual interviews that make up some parts of the film and they were as funny as always. As were the outtakes. It gave me hope that the actual movie would have some brilliance to it that would totally justify its existence. The fact that it featured some of my favourite actors also helped. I could watch Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd being fake outraged for hours on end. Which is a shame because the interviews are only a really tiny part of the film. Instead, they were released as a separate series of uncut interviews.
The narrative of the film takes us behind the scenes at Between Two Ferns as Zach is taking part in a documentary. We learn the history of the show and get to see why Will Ferrell took a chance on it. Of course, when disaster strikes, Ferrell sets the hapless host a challenge to get 10 interviews to him in 2 weeks or else. Of course, if he manages it, there could be a contract for a television network show in Galifianakis’ future. Can he and his trio of helpers find enough celebrities and make it to LA in time?
The sort of faux mockumentary style of the film isn’t exactly groundbreaking but it works well enough. It suits Zach Galifianakis’ character and gives him more opportunities to be awkward on screen. Unlike other attempts to make films from short form content, Between Two Ferns is shrewd enough to have some self-awareness. It knows that it is really just a stupid idea and a pointless enterprise. So, it doesn’t do more than it needs to. People show up to see the host say awful things to celebrities. Of course, this is a film so it needs to be held together by something and that is a flimsy road trip narrative. It’s not awful but it’s not memorable. Yes, there are funny moments Will Ferrell as a money-obsessed coke addict and a great Chrissy Tiegen cameo.
The only problem is, there’s just not enough of what made the show so great. The film only includes snippets of the interviews and its a massive shame. This is where Galifianakis’ character flies. It’s almost as if someone was afraid that it would end up being too mean and tried to limit the insults. In my opinion, it’s a mistake.