David Wain‘s A Futile and Stupid Gesture (Netflix, 1.26) is based on Josh Karp‘s same-titled biography of the National Lampoon‘s brilliant and self-destructive Doug Kenney, the leading formulator of anarchic, horndoggy, anti-establishment ’70s humor, and which largely influenced the comedic attitudes of Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon’s Animal House (’78) and National Lampoon’s Vacation (’83), et. al.

You can sense right away, however, that this Netflix production won’t be all that great. The trailer suggests a rote, paint-by-numbers scheme. If you were Doug Kenney in heaven and you had absolute mystical power in choosing who would direct this film, would you be cool with the director and co-writer of Wet Hot American Summer (’01) and Wanderlust (’12)? I didn’t think so.

Quote from 12.20 EW story by Jeff Labrecque: “The spine of Futile and Stupid is the relationship between Kenney and his more responsible and aristocratic Harvard classmate Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson), during and after they partnered to take their campus Lampoon publication national. So think The Social Network but with cocaine, pranks and food fights.” If you were a female NatLamp staffer in 1973 and a guy put a gun up to a dog’s head during a photo shoot, would you yelp and shout “what are you doing?” Because your cool cred would be ruined for life if you did.

The real inspiration, of course, is Doug Tirola‘s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, which I went nuts for after seeing it two years ago at Sundance ’15. It’s possible, I suppose, that Wain’s film will defy expectations and do a decent job of capturing Kenney’s rise, outrageous success, decline and death (will it depict Kenney’s fatal fall from a Hanapee cliff in Kauai in August 1980?), but what are the odds? My favorite line in that film was the late Harold Ramis remarking that Kenney “probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump.”

Please stream the Tirola doc.

Posted by yours truly on 1.28.15: “Drunk Stoned is a generally hilarious history of a great magazine and a period of inspired anarchic subversion…an absolutely vital history lesson for under-35s who’ve never read any National Lampoon issues or sunk into the mythology.”