Between Two Ferns: The Movie

by Derek Deskins

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 20, 2019

'Between Two Ferns: The Movie'
'Between Two Ferns: The Movie'  

You know, not everything needs to be a movie.

As we descend into the streaming wars that will assuredly bring all of this crashing down, everything is apparently in need of a movie or revival. That's how an internet-based interview series with 18 episodes over the course of more than a decade came to release an 82-minute feature on your streaming device of choice.

As a five-minute video, "Between Two Ferns" is designed for ultimate virality. Populated by a bevy of well-known celebrities willingly poking fun at themselves with an idiotic and often mean-spirited host, it is designed to be shared through the internet (all it's missing is a horde of kittens). But how do you expand a delicious snack into a multi-course meal? Based on the resulting "Between Two Ferns: The Movie," creators Scott Aukerman and Zach Galifianakis don't really have an answer.

After some ridiculous plumbing issues result in the complete destruction of the public access station that hosts "Between Two Ferns," Zach Galifianakis and his team are left without a home. Unfortunately, Funny or Die owner Will Ferrell is in need of ten new episodes in two weeks, and he doesn't care about their hardship. So Zach and the team pick up their gear and hit the road, traveling across the country and annoying new celebrities along the way.

"Between Two Ferns: The Movie" has a really hard time committing to what it actually wants to be. What it definitely is not is a collection of new episodes of the web-series. Despite the recording of new episodes being a large component of the plot, director Scott Aukerman doesn't seem content on letting us just have that. More to the point, he won't let us have them truly at all. The glimpses of the new episodes are fleeting, acting merely as distractions from the feature.

In the large chasm left by the absence of this new material is a mish-mash of genres. Initially, the film is presented as a mockumentary of sorts, borrowing heavily from Christopher Guest. But soon, this begins to bore the creators, and as it transitions into more of a road movie, the trappings of the mockumentary style are left on the side of the road. The result is that "Between Two Ferns: The Movie" ends up feeling like a knock-off of "The Muppet Movie," with a darker and angrier sense of humor and none of the charm of the muppets themselves.

You're left to wonder who it is that we should care about. Galifianakis is comfortable in his role of the idiotic curmudgeon, which makes him a tough character to root for. Likewise, the new characters are barely shaded in. The closest thing to a heart is Lauren Lapkus' producer, Carol Hunch, but even then she is more of a punchline generator than anything else. Even Will Ferrell, playing a western-wear-loving bizarro version of himself, isn't doing anything that we haven't seen before (fans of "Eastbound & Down" will see notes of Ashley Shaeffer).

The thing is, "Between Two Ferns: The Movie" just isn't a movie that was made for general audiences. Certainly there are moments of laughter but as is often the case with Aukerman's deranged and perpetually silly style, his primary goal is more to confound the viewer, leaving them awkwardly laughing in their own confusion. This was clearly a movie that was developed on the fly, an exercise in improvisation, and while that may be a gift to the improv experimenters (and the cast), it leaves it feeling like a puzzle that was never fully assembled. "Between Two Ferns: The Movie" is a feature-length struggle to be something that it never was and as a result, we lose the very thing that initially made it so interesting.

Now, we just need to find a way for Netflix to let us have those ten new episodes.