Family movie night? There's an app for that
Download our new mobile app on iOS and Android.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Creative people contribute so much value to society that they should be forgiven when they are jerks. "Always go with your worst instincts."
Positive Role Models
Doug Kenney is glib, bright, and obsessed with mocking politics, sex, society, pretentiousness, and all mainstream views of the middle-class world he hailed from. He's a heavy drinker, addicted to cocaine, a serial adulterer, disloyal, selfish, oblivious, and self-absorbed. He thinks of himself as superior to those too cautious or unimaginative to understand his vision and isn't shy about letting others know of his disdain. He's jealous and depressed when someone else's comic movie is a success.
Violence & Scariness
People at a magazine physically fight over money and control. A radio bit describes a celebrity having needles stuck in his eyeballs. Angry about money, Doug and his partner trash their publisher's office. Doug takes a bite out of a wine glass to impress a girl. Doug beats a movie producer named Brad with a mechanical gopher. A suicide is suggested.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A National Lampoon writer proposes an article called "The Joys of Wife-tasting"; another, a Dr. Seuss story about the "sexual awakening of a young toucan." Mention of a depiction of Minnie Mouse displaying her pasty-covered breasts. The writers are aware that sex sells magazines and they exploit that knowledge repeatedly. The writers are flippant on a full range of subjects normally treated with more seriousness. In one instance, a guy trying to be funny invites a friend to go to a bar and "watch sailors hit on runaway teens." The movie displays graphic photographs of women's breasts and men's and women's rear ends. Masturbation discussed.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"F--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "balls," "d--k," "c--k," "blow job," "ass," "hand job," "twat," "bush," and "suck."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Boxes and jars full of cocaine. People snort white powder and use other drugs, including LSD. Characters smoke tobacco and marijuana. Many characters drink large amounts of alcohol. It's suggested that Kenney may have been high when he died and that if he committed suicide it was partly related to an inability to stop using drugs.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Futile and Stupid Gesture is based on a 2007 book of the same name that examines the life of successful comedy writer Doug Kenney. It's suggested that overwork, an obsessive nature, and drug and alcohol use all contributed to Kenney's early demise. Admirers will see him as an innovator to be admired, but there's plenty in the film to support the view that he was a self-absorbed quipster stunted in his development somewhere near the adolescent level, perhaps because his parents didn't love him. The movie displays graphic photographs of women's breasts and men's and women's rear ends, but no genitals are shown. It's suggested that viewing such pictures spurred masturbation among the magazine's readers. A National Lampoon writer proposes an article called "The Joys of Wife-tasting." It's reported that the Disney company sued the Lampoon over a depiction of Minnie Mouse displaying her pasty-covered breasts. Cocaine use, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking are all shown. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," balls," "d--k," "cock," "t-ts," and "blow job." A suicide is suggested. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.