Sunday, August 12, 2018

Movie Review: "A Futile and Stupid Gesture" (2018)

Director: David Wain
Year: 2018
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes

 The story of the founder of National Lampoon Magazine, Douglas Kenney.
"You want me to give up a career in law to rely on you and start a humor magazine that will undoubtedly fail?" (Image Source)
Before the name "National Lampoon" became associated with shitty low budget straight-to-DVD films, it once was synonymous with comedy that was satirical and pushed the envelope of what was considered tactful. It was a hugely popular magazine that spawned a radio show, numerous well-received films, and had many comedy contributors that would go on to major stardom. People like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi all came up through National Lampoon. However, "A Futile and Stupid Gesture" is not about any those people (though some of them are included in minor roles), but rather, it is about Douglas Kenney (Will Forte), the man who started the magazine, along with his partner Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson). This Netflix original is directed by David Wain. The story starts out showing how Kenney and Beard met at Harvard and how they started writing at the Harvard Lampoon, through the publication and massive success of their magazine "National Lampoon," through the completion of Doug Kenney's most famous movies "Animal House" and "Caddyshack."
"Always go with your worst instincts." (Image Source)
We didn't know much about this movie before we sat down to watch it. Hell, we didn't know a thing about Doug Kenney, the origins of the "National Lampoon" magazine, or Kenney's involvement in two of our favorite comedies. "A Futile and Stupid Gesture" is a self-aware comedic biopic that uses things like narration and the breaking of the fourth wall to tell the story of its protagonist and to make some humorous observations about his life. Will Forte and Domhnall Gleeson both deliver some terrific, witty dialogue that kept us laughing pretty consistently for much of the film's runtime. Forte has brilliant comedic timing. Gleeson fits right in amongst the fray and holds his own in such a joking story despite that he is not known as a comedy actor. The supporting cast also brings a lot of laughs since a room full of crazed comedians pitching extremely wild ideas is often a good source of entertainment. Not everything about this movie is funny. It does touch on the more hard-hitting and dramatic moments of Kenney's life, including his drug addiction and a mental breakdown at one point. That being said, it never falls into melodrama or forgets that it is a comedy first and foremost. It uses Kenney's personal crises as opportunities for dark humor. We understand this may bother some people who feel like those involved in this biography shouldn't use tragic moments for comedic purposes, but we thought it was fitting considering the fact that Doug Kenney spent much of his life lampooning serious subjects with jokes, wit, and dark humor.
"Boys need something to read while getting teargassed." (Image Source)
"A Futile and Stupid Gesture" was a winner for us. It's a significant cut above many of Netflix's other recent original offerings.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 61%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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