A Futile and Stupid Gesture – Review

Genre Biographical, Comedy
Directed by David Wain
Starring Will Forte, Domhnall Gleeson, Martin Mull, Joel McHale, Thomas Lennon, John Gemberling, Matt Walsh, Rick Glassman, Jon Daly, Seth Green, Emmy Rossum
Released on January 24, 2018(Sundance), January 26, 2018 (United States/Worldwide)
Duration 101 minutes
Flixxpanda Rating 7/10
Channel Netflix

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is a biopic revolving around the main creative figurehead of the National Lampoon, Doug Kenney. So, that means there’s a lot of pressure already because it needs to be authentic. Add in the fact that Doug Kenney was a mysterious and complicated man, and voila! You’ve got the recipe for a movie that could go wrong in so many ways, which unsurprisingly it does, but still, it manages its shortcomings quite well and it still an entertaining watch.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is spread over a timeline of roughly twelve years, from 1968 to 1970. It shows the rise and fall of the magazine, National Lampoon, which is renowned for pioneering subversive, satirical and sexual humor. Basically, if it was released today, it would be called incredibly problematic, which it was then as well, just not that much. Sued by Disney, Mormon and endless other established giant names, they were still quite successful. If you can take a joke, by all means look up and perhaps read a copy of the magazine, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Doug Kenney is played by Will Forte, who is an extremely versatile actor without a doubt, but trying to portray a 47-year old as a college student is a bit of a stretch right? Further, Doug Kenney died at the age of 33, so either way Will Forte is a bit of an odd casting choice. It’s painfully obvious his hair is a wig, along with sporting fake sideburns, comparing him with real photos of Doug, make it unclear whether this film was not fully realized or just impatient.

Anyway, Doug convinces fellow Harvard classmate Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) to skip out on law school and start a monthly magazine instead. They name it National Lampoon, a spin-off of Harvard Lampoon, with wildly different content. Doug becomes creative head whereas Henry is business manager.

They specialize in satire and parody, a genre that has become increasingly famous among shows like Saturday Night Live. In short, it’s not for the easily offended. Doug continues to create content but often burns out and disappears for months at a time. Drugs and alcohol are a common occurrence for the workplace since they supposedly fuel creativity.

As National Lampoon expands to radio shows, movies and so on, Doug seems to spiral downwards into the world of cocaine. He’s taken to Hawaii to beat his addiction, except his shoes and glasses are found atop a cliff, implying that he jumped.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture bears all the faults that most Netflix productions are infused with. Rushed story timeline, bland stark-white lighting, poor editing, scenes smushing together. I doubt it’s because of a poor budget but more because the platform feels the need to put out new content than focus on quality.

Nevertheless I still enjoyed the slightly disjointed film because of it’s snarky dialogue and hilarious imagery. Give it a shot, it’s not anything near perfect, but it’s pretty damn good.

Video Credit – Netflix | YouTube

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