Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: The story of National Lampoon's comes to stuttering life in "A Futile And Stupid Gesture"

A Futile And Stupid Gesture Review

I've got a serious question here, is the story of everyone who has ever been famous boil down to addictive drugs, cheating on wives and daddy issues?

It feels like we see this happen time and time again in all biopic movies. So much so, that it feels like all of these biopic movies begin to look the same after awhile. A poor person finds out they are very creative. They have parents who don't believe in them. Sometimes they are an outsider or they meet the right person at the right time for something creative. They fall in love and get married. They struggle to rise in their given field. They cheat on their spouse. Their spouse leaves them. They hit it big. They spiral out of control. They discover drugs. They shatter relationships. No matter what they do, their families never admit that their children did good. Somewhere in between, they meet a new spouse, one that reminds them that the newfound fame doesn't represent who they truly are. Am I describing every biopic ever made? Or every movie about fame? It sure sounds like I am.

"A Futile And Stupid Gesture" tells the story of the birth of National Lampoon. I knew that it was a group that made some funny movies released before my time. What I didn't know was that National Lampoon began as a magazine, along the same lines as Mad magazine. But highly controversial upon its arrival. It took some chances in its humor, and everybody except the American Nazi Party wanted to sue the company's ass off. National Lampoon was the brainchild of Douglas Kenney (Will Forte) and Henry Beard (Domhall Gleeson), two people who met at Harvard. Douglas never felt like he really belonged at Harvard, and he noticed he had a knack for making people laugh. He wanted to start a magazine, and he wanted his best friend to join him. After much persuasion, Beard agrees. Everything else I mentioned above more or less happens next, but I want to put more emphasis on the more.

I will say that Domhall Gleeson absolutely disappears into his role. He has a completely new voice, new look, and a new stature. I've never seen Gleeson do anything like this before, and its an impressive performance. I will also say that Joe McHale appears as Chevy Chase. You know how Chase has a very specific type of deep voice? A voice you'd recognize anywhere? McHale nails it, flawlessly. In fact, everybody in the movie does impressive work. The movie is full of recongizable, subtle comedic actors like Joe Lo Truglio, Matt Walsh, Matt Lucas, Finn Whitlock, Seth Green, Thomas Lennon, Emmy Rossum, Annette O'Toole and Lonny Ross. These are all actors who may not be the top billed comedic actors of the time, but they have always been strong in their past appearances, and they make a truly good movie here. Will Forte also does some good dramatic work here, as well as creating a good character here.

The thing that kind of blows my mind that the movie is barely funny. There is a huge collection of funny people in this movie, working with material as the beginnings of National Lampoon, and I didn't laugh very much. Even though there are some dramatic beats in the movie, the whole film is told as a joke. Martin Mull plays the narrator in the film, and he has a good time playing around with the cliches and tropes of having a narrator in any movie, and he's clearly having lots of fun. There is a fun tone to the film as well, I just wish that I laughed more.

It's weird that our biopics are starting to assert their own cliches. I am wondering if we've seen the most a biopic can produce, especially if that biopic centers on someone with Hollywood dreams. Is it true that what all these people do is have day parties with day drinking and snort cocaine and cheat on their spouses? Is that it? While the film is well acted, it does absolutely nothing in separating itself from the rest of the herd.


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