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A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

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
3,308 ( 364)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Gingerich ... Doug - Age 12
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:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

26 January 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eine nutzlose und dumme Geste See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office


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

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.90 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Joel McHale portrays Chevy Chase in this project. The two costarred in Community (2009). A number of episodes centered on McHale's character fearing he would become like Chase's one day. When McHale called Chase and told him that he would be playing him in the film, Chase gave his blessing and shared with him stories about Doug Kenney. See more »


When Doug is driving a Jeep in Hawaii the Jeep has square headlights. These didn't appear on Jeeps until 1986. The scene is set in 1980. See more »


Tom Snyder: Mr. Kenney, it's a fine line between being clever and offensive, isn't it?
Douglas Kenney: Look, if I could just say something in defense of National Lampoon for one moment...
Tom Snyder: Please.
Douglas Kenney: We come from a tradition of truth-tellers. A long time ago, there was someone else society found offensive. They thought that what he did was radical - dangerous. They persecuted him... and eventually killed him. Of course, I'm referring to Dracula.
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 Nine to Five (1980) See more »


Rave It Up
Written by Paul Sass
Performed by The Colors
Courtesy of The Numero Group
By arrangement with Bank Robber Music
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User Reviews

4 February 2018 | by markj-02556See all my reviews

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is about the creation of the National Lampoon brand and its creator Doug Kenney. This film follows Doug through his extraordinary heights and lows of his life in the comedy business.

This film is directed by David Wain (Role Models), Wrote by Michael Colton and John Aboud (Penguins of Madagascar). It stars Will Forte (Nebraska) as Doug Kenney, Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina) and Martin Mull (Clue) as The Narrator. Along with a great line up of stellar comedians.

What I liked about this film was it's direction and in my opinion pitch perfect interpretations of famous actors and directors. I really enjoyed Joel McHale as Chevy Chase and Will Forte as Doug Kenney. Most of the jokes are funny as well especially the ones featuring famous scenes in films and how they came about. My favorite scene would have to be the ending though which for someone who didn't know the story actually had me tearing up a bit.

But some of the jokes do not hit for me, along with a dive in quality in the middle of the film which makes it last forever. means that it certainly isn't comic genius.

However I do like this film and think you should watch it. Its a bit rough around the edges but it means well and for fans of National Lampoon films, this fil is defiantly for you.


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