If you have Netflix, you can catch this movie that premiered just a couple of days ago , A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE, which tells the rise and fall of Doug Kenney, one of the co-founders for the National Lampoon magazine and also had a hand in writing two very famous films, Animal House and Caddyshack. He also jump started the careers of many famous comedians including Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, etc. However, I would suggest maybe instead to watch the 2015 documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, wherever you can find to watch it. That does its story’s justice. This does not. This unfortunately has a television feel to it that contains a bunch of famous actors, but not having enough material to warrant a half way decent film. It is very disappointing because all my life I have been interested in the National Lampoon, seen all the movies, and wondering how it all came together. The documentary left me, in a good way, wanting more, this movie made me go back to wishing they wouldn’t do anything else other than the doc.
Will Forte stars as Doug Kenney, and for some reason, Martin Mull plays a older modern day Doug constantly breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience and the fact that it is just a movie. Which if you know anything about the history of Doug Kenney, Martin Mull being there doesn’t make any sense. Was that the whole joke, or was it a misdirection for the audience in case some people didn’t really know about the famous man? Anyway, minor quibble aside, this movie could’ve been so much more. You have the great Will Forte as Doug Kenney and you have the fantastic Domnahall Gleeson as his friend and partner Henry Beard, who both co-created that National Lampoon magazine and other platforms as it eventually spread to radio and film. Unfortunately, Will Forte just seems to be playing himself, or a minor, smarter variation on his character in The Last Man On Earth. Domnahall Gleeson seems to be taking the role seriously, even though both of those wigs that they wear for their characters really can’t be.
You have famous actors portraying famous actors in here too, like Joel Mchale playing Chevy Chase, Seth Green playing Christopher Guest, and Jon Daly playing Bill Murray, nobody really looking like any of the others, only Jon Daly getting Murray’s voice down pat. And the whole film is just choppy. And at one hour and 41 minutes, you don’t get a whole lot inside the mind of Doug Kenney, you know that he was a funny man that didn’t exactly know how to harness his talent and his jealousy got in the way of most things. The film basically shows all their high time highlights, with Kenney being weird, drugged out, and delusional most of the time, but it fails to show the impact all of it had on America except for one television interview where they could sneak in a quick cameo of Ed Helms as Tom Snyder.
Not even a brilliant Emmy Rossum as Kenney’s girlfriend can save the third act, which *spoiler alert* doesn’t really go all that much into Kenney’s death and why it happened. It just happens, all of his friends show up at a bar, and they remember the good times. *end spoiler*. It just shows us everything, with little invisible astericks making the audience want to go to the computer and look up more in depth things on certain events. The main problem is that the whole production feels really cheap and shoddy. It looks and feels like a movie made for television and nothing seems authentic, and I guess that is why it is premiere on Netflix and not a theatrical distribution.
Which is a shame, because if you are a National Lampoon fan like I am, this is a serious disappointment. It would be even worse if this was the first telling of the story, thankfully, we have the above mentioned documentary for that to cool our jets from this epic fail. They could’ve made the movie longer and go more in depth with Kenney’s psyche, maybe spend a little more time on the making of Animal House and Caddyshack. The film is okay until Henry Beard eventually leaves the company and then shows up once or twice more. That shows you Domnhall Gleeson’s star power.
Anyway, this movie is a literal joke and not worth your time. Seriously, if you love the Vacation movies, or Animal House, or Caddyshack, or even remember the great magazine, I encourage you to watch the 2015 documentary because it is in depth and very interesting, this is background noise never to be played again.