Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon ★★★½

Fun Informative Cursory Incomplete: a cohesively assembled, often laugh-out-loud funny, equally cheerful and poignant oral history of the naughty humorist group, the R-rated Mad Magazine, that begat "Saturday Night Live" and a string of famous film comedies. Eye opening to me, as I never knew the extent of their influence nor all the familiar faces who were involved in its production even before "SNL" snatched them away (specifically John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill and Brian-Doyle Murray, Harold Ramis, John Hughes, Christopher Guest, Gilda Radner). This makes me retroactively lament that I wasn't around in the '70s to read this thing every month. I grew up on a diet of Mad and Cracked Magazines, but National Lampoon looks way funnier (and needless to say, more subversive and taboo) than either of those were.

Despite the generous displays of NL content thrown on screen and the playful imitation ones that are mixed in to give the talking head format some variety, this movie ends up feeling a little like one of the countless drive-by documentaries we've seen about various pop culture corners in recent years. They probably covered the main points and streamlined it in the viewer's best interests, but there were many references to parts of this story that I wanted to know more about, but which the movie didn't care to expand on. Hey, that's what books are for, and this documentary is based on one! Get thee to a library, I know, I know. But there is a certain superficiality to the layout of this that limits its potential. Regardless, it's a thoroughly entertaining tale, and unlike a lot of docs I've seen, I look forward to re-watching this one sometime down the road. Now I'm off to Amazon to see if there are any National Lampoon collected volumes for sale...

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