Courtesy of Netflix
“Between Two Ferns” is one of the many prominent staples in the “Funny or Die” online catalogue produced by Will Ferrell which features comedian Zach Galifianakis playing a mediocre talk show host whose primary objective is to ask insulting and awkward questions to major celebrities (President Obama made an appearance at one point) while sitting on a bare soundstage between two leafy ferns.
That formula has been stretched and retooled for the cinematic experience in “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” where host Galifianakis - after killing Matthew McConaughey in the films side splitting opening sequence - has been tasked with giving his producer, Ferrell (playing himself), ten quality episodes of the show within a week, or his contract with the public access network will be toast. But if he delivers, he will be given his own late night talk show on Lifetime.
Equipped with a rag-tag crew including his assistant (Lauren Lapkus) and camera squad (Ryan Gaul and Jiavani Linayao) - the group set up interviews with high profile superstars Keanu Reeves, David Letterman, Chance the Rapper, John Legend, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, and - the most memorable - Peter Dinklage (among many, many others who show up for brief cameos) to help get the job done.
How they managed to snag all those names is a big mystery (there’s even a strange subplot where Galifiankis hooks up with John Legend’s wife Chrissy Teigen). But they’re all game for the outlandish and absurd questions or comments thrown at them, and Galfianakis bluntness - whether it be mispronouncing Cumberbatch’s name (“Benefit lumberjacks”), telling rapper/actress Awkwafina there should be an all male reboot of “Oceans 8,” or asking Hailee Steinfield how it felt not to be in the good “Pitch Perfect” film - is funny because the host thinks his remarks are legitimate.
And Galifianakis deserves credit not only for his commitment to the script, but for giving segments their comedic charm (he’s the reason why, during several instances, I was rolling in my chair). However, a cheaply put together narrative by writer/director Scott Aukerman feels like a lousy framing device used to glue the outrageous interviews together instead of actually relaying a compelling story.
Still, clocking in at just above the 80 minute mark, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is a breezy watch that mine as well be made up of spare parts from the online portions. For something to toss on with your buddies on a Friday night, you could do a lot worse.