Plot: In his days at Havard, Doug Kenney (Will Forte) found a creative voice as part of the Harvard Lampoon, a humorous student publication that had a rich history, but was taken to new heights under Kenney’s lead. Now that he is graduating, Doug isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life, but he is certain that he wants to do something fun and not the usual grind. His friend and writing colleague Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) is ready to begin a more serious, normal career, but is talked into trying to expand the Lampoon into a national magazine. Henry assumes Doug’s interest will fizzle out and he can return to his schedule soon, so he agrees and after much rejection, the National Lampoon finds a willing publisher. The friends recruit a colorful ensemble of talent and push the boundaries of humor, sensitive topics, and good taste in general, which leads to a quick rise in sales and success. Even as success rolls in, can Doug find the inner peace he wants or will his newfound fame just push him to pursue even more destructive lifestyle choices?
Entertainment Value: This one is rooted in a real life series of events, taking us inside the rise of National Lampoon and the tribulations of one of the driving forces its huge successes. The movie itself is candid about simplifying the narrative, opting to focus on a smaller number of people rather than everyone involved, for the sake of the movie’s limited duration. Will Forte plays the lead and is able to pull off the imbalance of the role, as the big tonal shifts and inner conflicts seem well handled. Although it is clear this movie was made as a tribute to Doug Kinney, it also doesn’t ignore his lesser qualities, just downplays them. This where the movie loses steam in fact, as the passion for Doug’s humor and big persona are obvious, as that is where the movie glides, but when the more dramatic elements come up, the film struggles. But it is still addressed, with a focus on the drug abuse, relationship issues, and the odd bond between Doug and Chevy Chase, which is shown in an unhealthy light here. The ensemble here is deep, which means a lot of talent folks are involved, but it also means no one gets enough time to shine. Domhnall Gleeson is solid despite a ridiculous wig, while Joel McHale captures the essence of Chevy Chase better than expected. In the comedic moments this one is a lot of fun, but I think the movie sinks in the more serious stretches and the hero worship involved is a little much at times. I’d have preferred a darker, more raw look at the events, but this is still a passable watch.
A couple of brief topless shots, as well as a couple of bare cheerleader asses, but that’s all the nakedness. A lot of sex talk and the movie frames the Lampoon lifestyle as a ribald one, but none of the sexual hijinks are showcased. No blood. There’s some mild comedic violence, such as when Doug takes a bite out of a glass at random, but it is light and never graphic in nature. This movie features a lot of big, colorful characters, so some fun lines creep in often, to be sure. The humor is in line with the usual National Lampoon style, so it is on the random, goofy side, but most of the humorous scenes work well and earn some laughs. Doug is an interesting dude and he has a sharp sense of humor, so his lines wind up as the most memorable, no surprise there. But I also liked a lot of the odd comments made by the supporting players of the Lampoon staff. The wild humor adds some craziness, especially when Doug and Chevy Chase are together, but it isn’t all that outlandish overall. Some colorful characters, random impulsive elements, and Doug’s strange persona, but not an off the rails type experience.
Overall Insanity: 2/10