A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE

"Diary of a Wasted Life"

NoneLightModerateHeavy
Language
Violence
Sex
Nudity

Summary:

A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE on Netflix is the dramedy biopic about the tragic life of Douglas Kenney, the co-founder of the National Lampoon comedy empire. Despite good performances and a few laughs, A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE doesn’t succeed as a drama or comedy. Its excessively immoral content and anti-biblical, hedonistic worldview make this Netflix Original production pretty abhorrent.

Review:

A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE is a comical biopic about Doug Kenney, the co-founder of NATIONAL LAMPOON magazine, the iconoclastic humor publication. Kenney’s tragic life building a comedy empire leaves this excessively immoral, anti-biblical movie struggling to decide whether it’s a comedy or a drama, succeeding as neither.

After leaving a middle-class existence in Ohio, Doug Kenney struggles to fitting into 1960s-era Harvard College – until he and co-writer Henry Beard hit it off writing the HARVARD LAMPOON. In time, they decide to launch the first national humor magazine aimed at Baby Boomers who have embraced the counterculture. Kenney’s inability to find peace, or gain his father’s approval, drives him deeper into isolation and desperation.

Kenney lives a life of blatant excess. He’s a workaholic, a womanizer and a prolific abuser of a cornucopia of drugs. His irreverent sense of humor has him succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, making the magazine financially viable, branching out into radio and then co-writing two of the most popular comedies of all time, ANIMAL HOUSE and CADDYSHACK. Along the way, he developed such talented writers as Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, P.J. O’Rourke, and Harold Ramis.

Kenney’s earthly success wins him fleeting acclaim, but he can never win the approval of the man who matters the most: his father. He seems destined to push away everyone who ever cared about him, including his friend, Henry, his first wife and his live-in girlfriend, before the funnyman’s life ends in tragedy.

A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE can’t decide if it’s a comedy or a drama and succeeds at neither. However, there are many funny moments. In one inspired moment, it displays a list of its own historical inaccuracies. The tragedy is on display, as well. Like other Hollywood depictions of comedians (like Richard Pryor’s thinly veiled autobiography, JO JO DANCER, YOUR LIFE IS CALLING), though, the “comedy” contains more misses than hits. Without hearty laughs or characters worth embracing, the movie gives viewers little reason to sit through it.

The star-rich ensemble gives convincing performances. Domhnall Gleeson and Emmy Rossum are perfect in every scene. Natasha Lyonne, Joel McHale and Thomas Lennon bring heart to their roles. Jon Daly’s portrayal of Bill Murray is an imitation worthy of Rich Little or Dana Carvey. Even Martin Mull perfectly embodies what Kenney might have become, had he not died in 1980 at the age of 33.

The movie mirrors real-life New York City and Hollywood counterculture in the Sixties and Seventies. Sex, nudity and substance abuse fills virtually every scene. Republicans, religious groups and homemakers are parodied or belittled. In one scene, blacks are portrayed as inherently anti-Semitic. Intended as off-the-wall humor, the jokes always target only one side of the culture wars (in addition to falling flat).

The movie buries a few redeeming elements. The story of the importance of a father’s love and approval, the depiction of a true (if unmarried) love, and a lasting friendship get lost in the movie’s confusing tone and excessively immoral content. The final scene, which is the titular “futile and stupid gesture,” encapsulates the title character’s hedonistic approach to life and the pain and waste it produces.

If your plans call for “Netflix and chill,” you might want to skip this Netflix Original.

Content:

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Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Very strong pagan, anti-biblical, immoral, politically correct worldview with Anti-American content and anti-capitalist content, expressed in the characters’ gonzo mentality of casual sex, drug abuse and overindulgence of every kind, one character proudly calls the magazine in the story “atheistic trash,” narrator says a character “aspired to be the Antichrist,” movie makes two references to religious groups protesting its immoral content, characters call homemakers an example of “what’s wrong with America,” seven negative references to Republicans (including Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan).

Foul Language:
At least 62 obscenities (including many “f” words), three profanities taking the Lord’s Name in vain, and one obscene gesture;

Violence:
Light violence mostly played for comedy includes an off-screen suicide or accident, several playful fights and threats of violence (throwing a pool cue, throwing someone through a glass door), two examples of people throwing things, three food fights (including one inside a church), a man threatens to rape another man, and movie includes famous NATIONAL LAMPOON cover of someone holding a revolver to a dog’s head with the headline, “Buy this magazine or we’ll shoot this dog”;

Sex:
Multiple references to sex taking place mostly off-screen, two references to adultery (one depicted), one act of simulated self-abuse, one act of simulated stimulation under covers, and one kiss;

Nudity:
Strong and very strong nudity includes nine instances of male or female nudity in live action or still photos (full-frontal female and rear nudity, upper male nudity, and a picture of a man’s anus), and three separate instances of cartoon nudity (including a drawing of male private parts);

Alcohol Use:
Seven depictions of alcohol use at parties or at a bar;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Multiple depictions of smoking tobacco and depiction of heavy drug use includes two montages of multiple people doing cocaine, five additional depictions of cocaine use, four instances of people smoking marijuana, and two uses of LSD; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Very strong miscellaneous immorality and worldview problems such as blacks are portrayed as inherently Anti-Semitic and homemakers are parodied or belittled.

In Brief:

A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE is a mash-up comedy and drama about the tragic, true life story of Doug Kenney, co-founder of NATIONAL LAMPOON magazine. The movie follows Kenney from suburban Ohio, to Harvard, to the heights of comedic glory as he writes two of the most successful comedy movies of the last 50 years. Sadly, the iconoclastic workaholic can’t win his father’s approval, maintain a genuine relationship, or face the truth that his excesses are killing him.

Some good performances and funny moments can’t save A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE from its inner confusion. Is it a comedy or a drama? Even dedicated fans of the magazine’s comedy empire will have a hard time enjoying the movie. Along its meandering way, the movie takes viewers on a first-person tour of the Sixties and Seventies counterculture, with graphic nudity, substance abuse and a hedonistic lifestyle embracing casual sex, adultery, and moral relativism. Its excessive immorality and anti-biblical, politically correct worldview are abhorrent. In the end, like its title character, A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE is a confused waste of time and talent.