Between Two Ferns: The Movie review — Zach Galifianakis tries his best to salvage an inconsisently written screenplay

Shreya Paul

Sep 25, 2019 16:56:33 IST


Zach Galifianakis' claim to fame was not through one of the most conventional routes. Between Two Ferns was acerbic, aware, and most importantly, hilarious in its tone.

Galifianakis brought forth an open challenge to Hollywood's tradition of sycophants and yes-men. His voice was one-tone and almost delusional of its ability to cut the low punches, a fact which probably developed as the actor's USP later.

This unintentionally-funny; laughing-at-instead-of-with act brought Zach international fame when he chose to be an extended version of this talk show avatar with Alan's character in The Hangover. His goofiness, coupled with generous doses of political incorrectness wooed audiences worldwide, and transformed the franchise into a brand.

With Netflix's announcement of Between Two Ferns: A Movie, it was not surprising then that the expectations rode high. Zach's take on a feature film based on the staccato nature of the chat show was as challenging as it was fascinating, and one could expect only the best. The Netflix film however, fails. But not in all respects.

 Between Two Ferns: The Movie review — Zach Galifianakis tries his best to salvage an inconsisently written screenplay

Still from Between Two Ferns: The Movie. YouTube screengrab

Galifianakis is brilliant with his portions as the disgruntled host of a disorganised chat show. His stoicism is on point and brings the acidity of his vice to the fore. Galifianakis asks a handsome Jon Hamm, "Bradley Cooper co-wrote, directed and starred in A Star Is Born...", when Hamm interrupts to say, "I hear it's great." Zach continues with a blank expression, "Are you hoping that will open doors for other hot idiots?"

With ace material like this, the actor continues on a journey to purposefully roast multiple other Hollywood A-listers. The portions with Peter Dinklage are particularly funny, especially the bit about the Game of Thrones actor bragging about his priceless collection of Fabergé eggs.

The film bends towards the absurd, and the interviews continue their scathing streak with hilarious questions. But that is the least audiences could expect from Galifianakis. Scott Aukerman's screenplay is more than satisfactory but Scott and Zach fail with the story. What could have scaled the heights of craziness and rib-tickling sarcasm, instead barely scrubs the surface of funny. The overarching narrative thread, which ought to have tied the film together, is completely lacking. The crises are not well developed, with abruptly sloppy resolutions.

Galifianakis is however backed by a strong supporting cast. Lauren Lapkus is brilliant as Zach's efficient yet socially awkward assistant Carol. Will Ferrell, as Zach's evil boss, is a treat to watch. Ferrell's penchant for the larger-than-life, mad-cap characters has earned the actor worthy praise — Between Two Ferns: The Movie does not disappoint either. He is deliciously vile as the demanding boss who sits before a huge digital monitor, that counts the number of hits his online.

As Zach's motley crew follow their boss across the US to finish 10 episodes within a thin deadline, viewers will definitely root for the sloppy-yet-adorable actor but not invest in the characters as a whole.

The story falters, and Galifianakis brings nothing new to the table. It almost feels like the makers stitched multiple Between Two Ferns episodes with a blank canvas.

In a classic meta-narrative moment early on in the film, Galifianakis whines to his boss, "I am a white man, and I'm straight, I deserve it." With a punchline like that, you would expect the film to only soar higher, but both writers drop the narrative thread. The climax is a botched up fitting of the jigsaw, which leaves an annoying aftertaste. The film ought to have built on the show, but it is merely a lengthier version of it.

Between Two Ferns: The Movie streams on Netflix.

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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2019 16:56:33 IST