Charting a transition from Harvard campus newsletter to a national brand that encompassed movies, albums, tours and books, Douglas Tirola’s upbeat doc on National Lampoon already feels essential for celebrating a hard-fought moment of American comic subversion. The gang, which included John Belushi, Harold Ramis and a brilliant team of writers and artists, lived hard and suffered consequences, but it went as far as it could go.
Generously funded in 1969 by a former credit-card exec (Matty Simmons, the kind of deep-pocketed imp who rarely exists these days), the evolving magazine sharpened its bite. Firing its original hippie art director, Lampoon took on a new stylist, Michael Gross, who brought photorealism to soon-to-be-classic covers like “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” Wildly inappropriate content earned them a huge fan base, cresting at a million-copy circulation. And as argued by talking heads like Judd Apatow, a new generation was inspired to follow its raunchy nose.
Tirola’s punchy timeline hits the breaks at the ’80s flameout, wobbling in its handling of self-destructive editor Doug Kenney. But until the defunct Lampoon starts magically reappearing in your mailbox, this excellently titled pic will do nicely.
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