If you’re over the age of 30, you’ve probably heard of National Lampoon. If not for the humor magazine that went under in the 1990s, then for such comedy classics as “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Vacation” and all the “Vacation” sequels. I still make it a point to watch “Christmas Vacation” at least once a year.
“A Futile and Stupid Gesture” tells the story of Doug Kenney (Will Forte), Harvard graduate and founder of the National Lampoon brand. He and his friend Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) licensed the Lampoon name from Harvard and started their own humor magazine in 1970. While the magazine, and the brand, went on to thrive for many years before going out of business in the 1990s, this movie focuses on Kenney and his life.
It tells how he influenced not only the magazine, but comedy in general during those early years. The movie has a wonderful cast of comedians playing the roles of other comedians. While Will Forte plays the role of Kenney throughout the movie, Martin Mull plays an older version of Kenney who narrates the movie. We see his friendship with Chevy Chase (Joel McHale), Harold Ramis (Rick Glassman) and several other comedy writers who would go on to work at “Saturday Night Live.”
Kenney wasn’t just friends with these people, he influenced them just as much as they influenced him. The movie is genuinely funny and pulls no punches with its jokes. Plenty of satire fills this movie, but that’s what “National Lampoon’s” was, satire with no apologies. But for as funny as it could be, the movie also gets very poignant and sad.
Kenney’s life after he co-wrote “Animal House” wasn’t all candy canes and gumdrops. It turned into a dark time for him and the movie, along with Forte’s performance, do a great job of showing us just how dark he got. By the end, I felt bad for the guy.
Overall, “A Futile and Stupid Gesture” was very funny and a super fun movie. From the cast, to the jokes and even the drama, the movie did everything I want a great comedy to do. It kept me entertained, got me to want more and I may have learned a thing or two. Is it all true? I’m not entirely sure but I do know that it was fun to watch. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and even makes mention, from time to time, that something is silly or not quite accurate.
I give this movie 5 stars out of 5.
“A Futile and Stupid Gesture” is Not Rated and has a running time of 101 minutes.