A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

DailyView: Day 302, Movie 428

I was going through Netflix tonight, looking for something that I would enjoy. The Jungle Book 2 was hardly satisfying tonight and I was hoping for something better. I found it.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture was a film from 2018 about Douglas Kenney (Will Forte), a comedy writer who was one of the founding forces behind National Lampoon. The film followed Kinney through his younger days with his friend and co-creator Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) through the rise of National Lampoon from college magazine to major comedic force. Kenney was a writer on Animal House and Caddyshack and his life took a turn of excesses.

Based on Josh Karp’s book of the same name, A Futile and Stupid Gesture was howling funny, wittily written and surprisingly deep. The film was as much of a character study of this hilarious individual who proved that comedians are likely to have come from pain.

Douglas had to deal with feelings of inadequacy from his parents, especially his father (Harry Groener), as Doug believed that his brother, who had died, was the son that his father loved the most. The relationship with his father was one of the most troubling one of his entire life.

The film is narrated by an older version of Douglas, played by Martin Mull. Mull spends much of the movie breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience about choices that he had made and commenting on the situation.

The writing of this film, I found, was exceptionally witty. The constant one liners coming from Doug were very funny and pushed the level of comedy. The dialogue was quick and biting, but truly funny.

There are a lot of comedy legends portrayed in the movie. We see actors playing John Belushi, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Tom Snyder, Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, Rodney Dangerfield, and Tim Matheson. None of these performances really catch your eye as these famous actors, but that is part of why they were successful. Plus, Martin Mull is able to use that as a joke early in the movie.

I really enjoyed the chaotic nature of the narrative structure. I thought the use of Martin Mull was inspired, especially with what the end result of the movie turned out to be. There are several wonderful meta moments that made this movie a lot of fun to watch. I was impressed with the work of Will Forte, bringing to life a person with whom I was not at all familiar, and making me care about him. It might have tried to cram too much into the film, but I enjoyed what they gave me and I laughed throughout. What more can you ask of a comedy?

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