Published on September 26th, 2019 | by Ian Goodwillie0
Between Two Ferns: The Movie
Making a movie from a sketch comedy skit is rarely a good idea, but Zack Galifianakis makes it work in Between Two Ferns: The Movie.
Making a movie out of an SNL sketch is rarely good idea. If you want to count all the good SNL sketch to movie transfers, you wouldn’t even need an entire hand to do it. Excluding The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, and The Ladies’ Man, there aren’t any other good ones. The announcement of a new SNL movie always sends shivers up the spine.
So, when it was announced that the Funny or Die sketch Between Two Ferns was being made into a movie on Netflix, a familiar sense of dread crept over the world.
Fortunately, this one actually worked out for the best. The absurd best.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie tells the story of an alternate reality version of Zach Galifianakis. He still hosts Between Two Ferns but he does it from a community TV station in North Carolina and is not famous in any other way. Will Ferrell also plays an alternate version of himself, still in charge of Funny or Die but a more ridiculous version that’s obsessed only with clicks and Zach’s weight.
After almost killing Matthew McConaughey during an interview, Ferrell tasks Zach with completing ten more episodes of the web series. If he does, Ferrell will get him his dream gig hosting a proper late-night show on network TV.
With the community station destroyed, Zach sets out on a cross country journey with his crew to find celebrities and finish the episodes.
The entire movie is as off the rails as you’d expect it to be. The story is told from the perspective of a camera crew following Zach around to do a documentary about his life. The movie will go for long periods of time without acknowledging their presence, then they pop up at the most insane moments to remind you that the ridiculousness you’re witnessing is unavoidably caught on film for Zach to relive. They serve as an amazing punchline in scenes where even the viewer has forgotten they’re there.
Then there’s the celebrities Zach is interviewing. He and his team hunt them down in the most ridiculous of places. They catch up with Jon Hamm doing an autograph session in church in a random small town. Celebrities just keep appearing in the strangest places, though their tour of Peter Dinklage’s house is a highlight of the trip.
Dinklage really, really, really likes Faberge eggs.
Crazy interactions with celebrities are the bread and butter of Between Two Ferns but this movie is more than that. It is a strange behind the scenes look of something that never needed a behind the scenes look and no one ever expected to get a behind the scenes look. Watching Zach and his crew work together is delightful and frightening at the same time.
There’s a beautiful moment when Zach and his assistant Carol, played by Lauren Lapkus, are in the middle of a lake at an abandoned summer camp the team is staying at. Zach is attempting to fish from the swan shaped boat they’re using while Carol plays the trumpet she’s keeping in her purse for the entire trip for the first time. Spoiler alert. She’s never played the trumpet before.
Maybe the moment isn’t so much beautiful as it is pure insanity.
What makes this movie work is its commitment to the ridiculousness of its premise. The idea of exploring the pitfalls in the life of the alternate reality version of Zach Galifianakis works on so many levels. Had Scott Aukerman, the writer and director of the movie, taken the concept too seriously, or seriously at all, it never would have worked.
The core premise of Between Two Ferns as a web series is absurdity at its finest. The movie needs to be the same to make it funny.
The only problem is, like SNL, the success of this movie might encourage Funny or Die to make more of their sketches and series into movies. The success of these transitions is an anomaly at best. Again, look at how few SNL sketches make successful or even watchable movies. The odds are another Funny or Die adaptation wouldn’t be as good as this one.
That being said, if Livin’ ‘Neath the Law with Jack McBrayer makes the transition, the world will be a much better place.