Zach Galifianakis has come a long way from his professional goofball roles of the Hangover era of his career.
He’s been involved in more nuanced comedies this past decade, as well as Baskets: one of the best dramedies in recent years. The latter (a dual role) is one Galifianakis was really able to sink his teeth into and learn to subdue some of his crazier urges to deliver a more multi-faceted performance. That experience extends to the Between Two Ferns film.
If you haven’t seen Between Two Ferns yet, Google it, I’ll wait. If you aren’t down for that, don’t worry, as a concept is simple: it’s a web series starring a fictionalized version of Zach Galifianakis awkwardly interviewing (real) famous stars on a “public access channel.” That’s…pretty much it. But it’s not so much the idea that works so well as it is the execution, as Galifianakis brings a certain clueless and aggressive gravitas to the whole thing, similar to how Eric Andre plays off his guests on his titular show.
While this whole thing could have been half-assed, it’s legitimized by a sort of mockumentary, The Office-style angle. The film also explains the premise for the web series in a meta way, bringing in Will Ferrell to play a ridiculous caricature of himself (what a reach!). Surprisingly, there’s a lot of heart involved as we witness the (slight) rise and fall of Galifianakis’ character, and the people who rally behind him.
It also operates as an extra delivery system for more web series interviews, which gives us yet another good 2019 appearance from Keanu Reeves (the year isn’t over!). Somehow the film maintains a good pace throughout, not cheapening said interviews by dumping them rapid-fire, but mostly giving us narrative reasons for why they’re taking place. It’s a clever way to give fans of the original concept something to follow along with while evolving it with dramatic escapades. Scott Aukerman, the co-creator of the series, adds his touch at the director helm, which helps with the authenticity of the project. It’s hard to believe the series started all the way back in 2008 with Michael Cera, but thanks the enduring passion of Zach Galifianakis, it lives on. Great writing is really at the core of Between Two Ferns, and as you can see in the credits, most of the zingers are laugh-out-loud worthy, a joy that’s sadly missing from a lot of modern phone-it-in comedies.