In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.
The format is well played with Will Forte as the young Doug and Martin Mull as kind of older, alternate universe Doug, if Kenney had lived, narrating the film. The rest of the cast is well known, playing unknown actors and writers. It took me a second to recognize Natasha Lyonne (American Pie) as Anne Beatts, Thomas Lennon (Reno 911) as Micheal O'Donoghue, and Joel McHale (Community) as Chevy Chase. All of them are covered in 70s hairstyles and McHale does a really good job of mimicking Chase's speech patterns and even his trademark pratfalls.
The film excels in showing how Kenney rose from a malcontent to a Harvard grad to a fledgling magazine editor to movie writer. Forte is especially compelling and funny as Kenney. He doesn't quite have the acting range to pull off the downward spiral of the person, but he does an excellent job with the jokes and the other aspects of Kenney's life. Where the film fails is trying to shoehorn too many characters into its 100 minute run time. There is even a humorous scene of older Kenney (Mull) explaining to a bunch of supporting characters that there wasn't enough screen time for all of them so they get ignored. But the film goes to great pains to cram in other famous people such as Gilda Radner, Christopher Guess (Seth Green), Bill Murray, and John Belushi. The actors playing Murray and Belushi came off as actors lampooning (no pun intended) the famous comedians. Belushi was such a huge personality, I doubt anyone could portray him properly in such a short cameo.
Another special mention goes out to Emmy Rossum. She is a stunning screen presence and even though her appearance is short, as Kenney's last girlfriend, she lights up the screen. She is a gorgeous actress as well.
There is also a fun nod to Animal House with Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer) portraying a publisher.
The movie moves fast through the various periods of Kenney's life, but I think he would have enjoyed it. He comes off as funny, yet troubled, a brilliant comedian, but an emotionally stinted adult. A Futile and Stupid Gesture is anything but. The only thing I would have added, is maybe some post interviews with the actual people portrayed in the movie who knew Kenney, even if they were archival for some (Belushi and Ramis). Still, this was a well-done film.
- Mar 11, 2018