This is a well-made and engaging biopic that takes a bit of license with the truth, as it explicitly confesses and mimics the subversive, dysfunctional style of its subject to tell his story. However, the one thing its clever writing, solid performances, and adept direction cannot do is make its subject more likable than he actually was. In fact, A Futile and Stupid Gesture goes to some trouble to show exactly how insensitive, disloyal, troubled, and difficult he was. You can say that this movie's essential flaw is that it's about Doug Kenney.
Far more interesting is the movie's focus on the cleverness and vitality of a group of young, mostly white men who, like Monty Python in England, injected a youthful vibrancy into English-language comedy of the late 1960s and '70s. The proposition that Kenney was the guiding force behind a new kind of comedy is contradicted by the movie itself as it presents a dozen writers just as talented, including Henry Beard, Tony Hendra, Rick Meyerowitz, Anne Beatts, and others who were contemporaries and older, thinking the same way, equally irreverent, equally witty and bright. The movie doesn't mention the way the two Harvard men who started National Lampoon were influenced by earlier comic innovators, but it does praise them for opening the door to Saturday Night Live, and for helping to launch the careers of such comedy icons as writer-directors Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis, and Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase (nicely played by Joel McHale). At 47, Will Forte strains credulity as a college student and even as Kenney at age 33. The casting seems odd, especially given that the actor playing his classmate, Beard, is 13 years younger.