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A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

TV-MA | | Biography, Comedy | 26 January 2018 (USA)
In the 1970s and '80s, National Lampoon's success and influence creates a new media empire overseen in part by the brilliant and troubled Douglas Kenney.


David Wain
399 ( 1,972)
2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Gingerich Frank Gingerich ... Doug - Age 12
Morgan Gingerich Morgan Gingerich ... Doug - Age 12
Annette O'Toole ... Stephanie Kenney
Harry Groener ... Harry Kenney
Martin Mull ... Modern Doug
David Wain ... Interviewer
Domhnall Gleeson ... Henry Beard
Will Forte ... Douglas Kenney
Ben F. Campbell ... Harvard Jester (as Ben Campbell)
Jon Klaft ... Preppy Student
Camille Guaty ... Alex Garcia-Mata
Brad Morris ... Peter Ivers
Carla Gallo ... Lucy Fisher
Beau Bassewitz ... Umpire
Rick Overton ... First Publisher


An old version of humorist Douglas Kenney tells the story of how he and Henry Beard parleyed their success in their campus magazine, Harvard Lampoon, into the commercial magazine, National Lampoon. Drawing upon their checkered lives and an aggressively puckish sense of humor, the pair created a publication that would redefine American comedy with outrageous drollery that grabbed the zeitgeist of the decade that expanded across various media. Unfortunately, for all his success, Doug Kenney with his overhanging insecurities, ego and irresponsible appetites began to consume him until he alienates everyone who ever cared and supported him even as they imitated him. In the end, this iconoclastic funnyman would come to a tragedy that comes when your comedy doesn't have enough distance. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


If You Don't Watch This Movie, We'll Kill Will Forte. See more »


Biography | Comedy


TV-MA | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Martha Smith, who played Babs in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), has a brief cameo as a bus tour guide at Universal Studios. This is a reference to the ending of Animal House, where Babs was said to have become a tour guide at Universal Studios. It's also referenced after the credits of several movies at the time in an advertisement for the studio tour ("Ask for Babs"). See more »


Just before his death in Hawaii, Doug was shown driving a '87-'95 Jeep Wrangler. He Died in 1980. See more »


Douglas Kenney: Fuck those guys, you know? They're just like my dad. They jerk off to Eisenhower biographies.
Henry Beard: Yes, but, and this is what I love about them, they have money.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the end credits have rolled, Martin Mull is shown singing the song "Time of My Life" with members of the cast. See more »


References National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) See more »


Time of My Life
Written and Performed by Martin Mull
See more »

User Reviews

Well made biography worth to be told.
15 April 2020 | by deloudelouvainSee all my reviews

After looking up Douglas Kenney (quote: Though almost completely unknown, this man was one of the originators of a highly popular and groundbreaking new form of comedy and satire) and reading his full biography I admit I never heard of him before, even though I watched Animal House and Caddyshack, like everybody else probably. It's an interesting story to watch, a bit sad but told in a funny way, probably just like he would have wanted it. It's just too bad there wasn't a small part for the real comedians from those movies, that would have been a nice addition. But watching Will Forte is always funny. Since the series The Last Man On Earth I'm a big fan of him. The cast was just very good for this movie, mostly comedians better known from comedy series, but none of them has to prove anything anymore as they are all funny. The movie is well shot, never a dull moment, and it's a story that is worth to be told. National Lampoon is a name everybody knows or has heard of, and this movie is a nice hommage to one of the co-founders, maybe a bit excentric, certainly not a fully happy man, but with a fascinating life.

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Release Date:

26 January 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Futile and Stupid Gesture See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.90 : 1
See full technical specs »

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