Last night, I went to see A Futile and Stupid Gesture, which is now streaming on Netflix. It's about Doug Kenney who was one of the main voices behind the rise of the National Lampoon empire. It's enjoyable and fairly inventively done, breaking the fourth wall on occasion to talk directly to the audience, using techniques from the magazine and having an irreverent sensibility, trying to capture to tone of the National Lampoon world. (The title of the movie, of course, comes from a famous line in Animal House.)
The performances are good, notably with Will Forte as Kenney -- and Martin Mull as "modern-day Doug Kenney," popping in once in a while to comment and add perspective. Also, in a whimsical bit of casting, Joel McHale plays Chevy Chase, who McHale acted with for several years on the series, Community.
Here's the trailer. It does a respectable job of giving a sense of the movie, though the film is a great deal more about the time building the magazine and National Lampoon brand than when they later branched out to Hollywood.
Stick around afterwards, though, I have an additional, whimsical word or two...
If you see the movie, there’s a wonderful tiny hidden “cameo” of sorts that will likely slip by most people. (It did even at the Writers Guild screen.) Indeed, usually I miss those kinds of thing and they have to be explained to me after the fact. And happily, though a clip of it in the trailer. I thought about mentioning it beforehand but thought it would be more fun to see if anyone picked up on it.
There’s a scene late in the film that takes place on the Universal Studios lot, and a tour tram goes by (harkening me back to my days as a tour guide, which might be why my antenna was up…) and suddenly I did a double-take and had an immediate thought, In the Q&A afterwards, I asked the writers if I was right – and they burst into smiles and were so pleased and impressed that I caught it. That's when I knew it had slipped past the audience, because you could hear a roomful of appreciative murmurings. I asked if the actress playing the tour guide is the same actress who had played ‘Babs’ in Animal House. And indeed it was. (You'll recall that that film’s scrawl, updating us on what happened to all the characters, it says she became a tour guide at Universal. And that at the very end of the movie, after all the credits, it has the traditional logo after all Universal films at that time, "When in Hollywood, visit for Universal Studios." But then added, "Ask for Babs."
If you go back to the trailer to see Martha Smith "recreating" her role (I went online to check the iMDB afterwards, and she is indeed listed as 'Babs), she comes along at around the 1:40 mark.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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