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A Futile and Stupid Gesture
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A Futile and Stupid Gesture

A Futile and Stupid Gesture” is a cheesy, slapdash, semi-tongue-in-cheek biopic that purports to be about a lot of things — the creation of The National Lampoon, the weirdly haunted soul of its co-founder, Douglas C. Kenney, the rise of comedy in America in the 1970s. But the only aspect of it that I found I could focus on with even a modicum of interest was Will Forte’s sideburns.

Forte has been made up to look like Doug Kenney, a charismatically screwy hippie materialist WASP bad boy, the way he might have if this were a 10th-grade play. He wears a wig of stringy long hair that never, ever looks like anything but a wig, and he sports the sideburns of the era — long and shaggy, more beef jerky than mutton-chop. But these, too, are transparently fake, and all I could think was: Isn’t this supposed to be, like, a movie? Couldn’t Forte have spent a few weeks growing out his sideburns so that the make-up person didn’t have to glue two pieces of shag carpeting onto his face?

I know, I know: There probably wasn’t the budget for it. (I don’t mean a budget for sideburn-growing; I mean a budget that would allow the filmmakers the luxury of time to shoot in continuity.) But when you watch “A Futile and Stupid Gesture,” a Netflix release (it’s available starting Friday, Jan. 26) that premiered yesterday at Sundance, you’re confronted, head-on, with the quintessence of the Netflix-original-film aesthetic, and it is not a pretty sight.

Duration: 101 min


IMDb: 6.8

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