Lots of drugs and crazy scenes fill the screen in A Futile and Stupid Gesture, a movie about the comic genius primarily responsible for the creation of the National Lampoon magazine and the Animal House and Caddyshack films. Based on a book by Josh Karp, this biopic follows the ups and downs of Doug Kenney’s frenetic and meteoric career. Many real-life funny people -- including Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Christopher Guest -- are portrayed in this movie, so I expected it to be a comedy gem. I was wrong. It’s a very serious offering concerning the talented man who changed comedy entertainment during the 1970s and 1980s.
The first actor playing Kenney (Martin Mull) does a good job narrating, and Will Forté takes over the difficult lead role in live-action sequences. (Both men appear together in parts of the movie, which causes some confusion.) Because Kenney’s behavior is so outlandish throughout, it’s hard to empathize with this main character. But we do understand his irreverent creative talent and why Kenney needs the much calmer Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson) as a partner and friend. Plus, it’s fascinating to see the film’s depiction of the Animal House phenomenon as well as the making of Caddyshack, two movie comedies now beloved by many throughout the world. Too bad the film seems jumbled and so hard to follow.
Still, A Futile and Stupid Gesture boasts one of the most unusual funerals ever filmed, thanks to extreme dramatic license and the lovely sounds of “Beautiful Dreamer.”
Crude humor, films, a magazine –
yet what do all these really mean?
That’s Doug Kenney’s life story told
in sequences both true and bold
This film’s about a troubled soul
with comic writing as his goal.
Actors play characters we see
in the movies and on TV.
But wigs and falls are not enough
to hold our interest in their stuff.
Some biopics go off the track
and make us want our money back.
Is Doug Kenney’s biopic bad?
It’s quite bizarre -- but don’t be sad.
For after all is said and done,
this film makes death seem like it’s fun.
With comedy, you have no place to go but more comedy, so you’re never off the hook. --- Steve Martin
Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. --- Edmund Gwenn
(Released by Netflix and rated TV-MA)
For more information about A Futile and Stupid Gesture, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.