“Between Two Ferns” delivers awkward laughs

Craig Odenwald, Staff Writer

A car swerves and careens into dirt and dust. The passengers exit. They are panicked, shocked, and terrified. But their driver Zach Galifianakis does not care whether they are safe or injured. Instead he searches the vehicle for the only items in the car he cares about.

Turning to his passengers, he screams, “Where are my ferns? Where are my ferns?!”

Such moments encapsulate the hilarity, the strangeness, and the curiosity of “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” directed by Scott Aukerman. The film is based off of the web series “Between Two Ferns,” the brainchild of Aukerman and Galifianakis. Both the movie and the YouTube series feature Galifianakis interviewing celebrities and asking them incredibly awkward questions.

However, the movie takes that one step further, and constructs a story around Galifianakis’ interviews, through a mockumentary style akin to “The Office” or “Borat.”

Galifianakis’ boss Will Ferrell, playing himself, tells the hapless host that he needs 10 episodes of “Ferns” shot within two weeks. With a flood-damaged studio and an impending deadline, Galifianakis and his crew take to the road to interview celebrities in a trip that could make or break his Hollywood dreams.

“Between Two Ferns: The Movie” succeeds most when it focuses on celebrity cameos. Galifianakis uses his goofy mannerisms and innocent stare to full effect, asking only the most offensive of questions. But his best interviews in the film come when the celebrities are given more dialogue to respond. Despite their brief appearance, they establish terrific chemistry with Galifianakis.

At one point, he interviews the stoic Benedict Cumberbatch, calling him Benefit Lumberjacks in his interview’s opening salvo. Galifianakis shifts in his chair and stares right at him. “Do you think your British accent helps hide the fact that you’re not a very good actor?”

“Yes.” Cumberbatch holds his gaze. “I believe it does.”

The range of celebrity picks are worth the watch alone, as Galifianakis recruits an eclectic group of personalities to poke and prod at with his questions. An unamused Chance the Rapper, frustrated David Letterman, stoic Keanu Reeves, and many more line the film’s star-studded cast.

The film falters in the scenes featuring Galifiankis’s crew. Lauren Lapkus’ Carol is bubbly and quirky, Ryan Gaul’s Cam is a jerk to Galifiankis, and Jiavani Linayo’s De Laurentis gets asked out by a few of the celebrity guests. The first two are strange and quirky without explanation, while Laurentis is less hokey. Their trio would be less grating as the film went on if they were portrayed as normal individuals to offset Galifiankis’s awkward demeanor.

“Zach is insane,” says Cam to De Laurentis at one point in the film. Later on, he’s the first of the group to volunteer to rob Peter Dinklage’s house during an interview (long story). There is not much for the side characters to say or do beyond sharing their opinion of Galifiankis.

“Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is a fun-filled outing for fans of the original series, despite the weak filler plot in-between celebrity cameos. Galifiankis carries the movie, filling out the stops between interviews with his trademark lack of self-awareness and his deadpan stare. Even if the story isn’t up to snuff, the “Ferns” crew proves once again that in life, there are no stupid questions, but there sure are some funny ones.