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Netflixs Between Two Ferns movie is thin, but thats no problem

Between Two Ferns movie

Netflixs Between Two Ferns movie is thin, but thats no problem

The brilliant simplicity of the Funny Or Die shorts series Between Two Ferns is that anyone could do it, but only one person could make it work. Shot on a set meant to evoke a public access cable show, Between Two Ferns features a black-curtained set, a pair …

Netflix’s Between Two Ferns movie is thin, but that’s no problem – The Verge

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Netflix’s Between Two Ferns movie is thin, but that’s no problem

The movie-length adaptation of Zach Galifianakis’ internet shorts makes a fun hangout film

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Sep 20, 2019, 12:29pm EDT

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Netflix’s Between Two Ferns movie is thin, but that’s no problem

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The brilliant simplicity of the is that anyone could do it, but only one person could make it work. Shot on a set meant to evoke a public access cable show, Between Two Ferns features a black-curtained set, a pair of seats, and the requisite two ferns. In one seat sits a celebrity guest, from Natalie Portman to Barack Obama. In the other sits Zach Galifianakis, who glowers as he asks a series of misinformed, inappropriate, and downright hostile questions. The guests are in on the gag, of course. But even if they weren’t, they still might find the insults refreshing after fielding so many variations on the same sycophantic questions during their time on the series’s not-so-secret target: the junket and talk show circuit.

It’s a brutally funny bit, but it’s not necessarily one that easily extends to a full-length movie. Has anyone ever wondered what Galifianakis (the character, not the actor and comedian) does when he isn’t between those two ferns? Does anyone want to examine his dreams or consider why he does what he does?

The Netflix feature Between Two Ferns: The Movie, written and directed by comedian (and longtime Ferns collaborator) Scott Aukerman, from a story credited to Aukerman and Galifianakis, addresses these questions but only glancingly. Mostly, they serve as the spur that gets Galifianakis, his crew (most prominently his producer Carol, played by Lauren Lapkus), and some young filmmakers working on the behind-the-scenes documentary Behind Two Ferns on the road. Their goal: to travel from their home base at a Flinch, North Carolina public access station to Los Angeles while shooting 10 episodes of Between Two Ferns. Their reward: Galifianakis will fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a big-time talk show host in a program produced by the sadistic, coked-up Will Ferrell.

It’s a pretty thin premise for a movie, but that’s not necessarily a problem. Between Two Ferns: The Movie is at its weakest when it’s most concerned with its plot. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s at its best when it lets Galifianakis ask awkward questions of guests like David Letterman, Tessa Thompson (who Galifianakis and Carol keep calling “Tesla”), and Jon Hamm. Even here, the film hits some snags. The abbreviated appearances seldom let Galifianakis find the awkward, halting rhythm of the show’s episodes. Its biggest laughs come immediately in an interview with Matthew McConaughey that matches the best Between Two Ferns episodes for uncomfortable laughs, then devolves, slowly and terrifyingly, into utter chaos.

Some of the film’s non-talk show bits come to life, however, particularly a visit to Peter Dinklage’s treasure-filled home. And the road-movie setup serves as its own running gag. Does Chrissy Teigen hang out in random Louisville, Kentucky bars? Does Jon Hamm regularly conduct autograph sessions in his native Missouri? The film doesn’t call much attention to the absurdity of these encounters, which just makes them funnier. And at the end of all the silliness, the final stretch lands some points by suggesting that, even in 2019, it’s still possible to sell out — and that selling out remains kind of lousy.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie sometimes feels shambling, even with its 82-minute runtime — which includes some slooow-moving credits that play over scenes of Galifianakis and his guests breaking character — but it’s also pretty good company. Netflix’s move into the movie business and its have created a crisis that shows no signs of going away. When Martin Scorsese’s ambitious The Irishman debuts later this year, its biggest audience will undoubtedly be on the small screen, a development that seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. But some movies feel made for Netflix. Between Two Ferns: The Movie is too much Between Two Ferns to fit into an episode but not enough movie for a sit-down-in-the-theater experience. Still, it’s companionable in the lowered-stakes world of Netflix films where pleasantness and a handful of highlights seem to matter as much as excellence.

It’s not a bad venue for experimentation, either, and the platform suits Aukerman’s brand of comedy, which sometimes needs some space to try material that could combust or fizzle. As in the TV version of his Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast (also available on Netflix), his guiding impulse here seems to be, “If it works, great! And if it doesn’t, that might be okay, too!” Besides, if there’s any lesson to be gained from Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns: The Movie journey, it’s that perfection is for phonies, and polish hides originality. Things only really get interesting when there’s some potential for disaster.

In the US, Between Two Ferns: The Movie debuts on Netflix on September 20th. Release date and availability may vary by country.

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