Title – A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)
Director – David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer)
Cast – Will Forte, Domhnall Gleeson, Emmy Rossum, Joel McHale
Plot – Examines both the beginnings and life of the National Lampoon’s comedy brand and its troubled co-creator Doug Kenney (Forte).
“Between the magazine and the radio show, I barely had time for my other hobbies, like being a terrible husband”
Review by Eddie on 28/06/2018
All of us at some time or another have had a National Lampoon’s experience.
Perhaps it was a sneaky viewing of Animal House when you were too young to do so, watching the Griswold’s various eventful vacations or maybe some golfing antics in the form of Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s played an important part in mainstream comedy events of the late 70’s and 80’s and therefore has played a part in our lives at some stage or another.
Looking to provide insight into how this world-wide recognised brand came to be, Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain has assembled a capable cast to front his Netflix distributed biopic A Futile and Stupid Gesture but this 90 minute feature will leave many more casually interested fans left wanting, while diehard fans will quickly begin to realise that well-renowned documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is a much more assured and insightful look at the rise and fall of main National Lampoon campaigner and co-creator Doug Kenney.
Here played by cult figure Will Forte, Kenney is a complicated and hard to read figure that remains an illusively mysterious character throughout Wain’s feature and a figure that’s hard to fully connect with both due to the fact Kenney is a rather obnoxious person and that Forte feels out of his depth with a role that’s hard work for the actor, particularly in the times Forte is tasked with bringing a college aged Kenney to life in the films early stages.
Surrounded by quality actors such as a near unrecognisable Domhnall Gleeson as Kenney’s partner in crime Henry Beard, Emmy Rossum as Kenney’s second wife Kathryn Walker and supporting turns from the likes of Ed Helms and curiously Joel McHale as Chevy Chase, Forte never fully convinces in his lead turn while most actors struggle to make an impact as Wain’s focus continually stops and starts as Futile’s brief but cluttered 90 minute runtime moves forward.
Adopting a rather unique approach to proceedings and trying its best to divert from the usual biopic by the numbers rulebook, Wain’s film isn’t afraid to break the 4th wall and even at one stage admits to all the things its skipped over or changed for dramatic license but at the end of the day Wain’s film still feels rather generic and most disappointingly like a National Lampoon’s greatest hits parade, showcasing all the things we expected to see (e.g. Animal House’s inception, Chevy Chase doing far too many illegal drugs) without ever really surprising viewers in any meaningful way.
Final Say –
The story of National Lampoon and Kenney is a story worth telling and a no doubt intriguing one for fans of the comedic brand but A Futile and Stupid Gesture feels like a missed opportunity to fully encapsulate the brands inception and the beginning of a whole new era of comedy.
2 studio lot fisticuffs out of 5