A Futile and Stupid Gesture

Showing on Netflix.

In the 1970’s National Lampoon redefined comedy in the United States and beyond, spawning from a Harvard campus magazine, they introduced the world to comedy talent who would become household names, first via books and magazines before spawning the most successful film comedy, up to that time, with the classic that is Animal House. All of this coming from the minds of Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) and Doug Kenney  (Will Forte).

David Wain’s film focuses on the life of the two founders and more specifically that of Kenney. The film flits between traditional biopic interspersed with fantasy scenes (a la Rocketman but less extravagant) showed perhaps most clearly by Martin Mull’s self proclaimed narrative device of an older Kenney.

It’s an interesting reflection of the time and focuses on the story of a hugely influential character in modern comedy, but one, as we hear in the intro, that you’ve never heard of. Kenney’s, like with many comedic talents, zany exterior hides an inner sadness that shows itself through the excess that his success and quickly acquired wealth allowed him, alongside talents of the time like John Belushi and Chevy Chase, to spiral into, as these new comedians developed a “rock n roll” lifestyle.

While the film provides an interesting window into their world, it never quite fully works, it’s a little uneven and feels like it drags as the film enters its final act. However, there are things to enjoy, there are plenty of solid performances from a plethora of well known current comedic talent and some recreations of well known scenes from influential comedies from the late 70’s.

If like me you’re a fan of National Lampoon, while not perfect, A Futile and Stupid Gesture provides an interesting take on its creator and a chance to see loving recreations of famous moments from their colourful past.

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