Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon is a fast-paced, often hilarious look at the magazine the defined lewd, counter-culture humor. Most contemporary audiences likely know the name and its association with such timeless cinematic comedies as Animal House, Caddyshack, and Vacation. But in its heyday the magazine was a treasure trove of topless women and stories that explored such possibilities as Hitler surviving World War II and living the rest of his days on a tropical island. It was edgy in the 70’s and still is today, with the film offering plenty of “wow, how did they get away with this?” moments.
Director Douglas Tirola floods the screen with talking heads, most of whom are entertaining and have genuinely amusing stories about the wild behind-the-scenes culture at the magazine. It feels like Tirola has assembled just about every living person ever associated with National Lampoon’s publication – save Bill Murray, who’s curiously absent except for archive footage – but the focus and drama is on co-founders Doug Kenney and Henry Beard. It’s a compelling and ultimately sad story of success gone awry. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is at its best when it simply just lets its interviewees talk. The final tale about Kenney’s life could not be more appropriate and hilarious in context. There are plenty of moments of self-congratulations and “look at what we did!” shenanigans, but that never detracts from what is an otherwise celebratory film about humor that few would even think about pulling off today. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead serves as the perfect time capsule of National Lampoon’s run and the influence it has on comedy to this day.
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Length: 98 Minutes
Rating: Unrated (Contains nudity and language)
Theatrical Release: January 25, 2015 (Sundance Film Festival) / September 25, 2015 (Limited)
Directed by: Douglas Tirola
Written by: Mark Monroe & Douglas Tirola
Cast: Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Judd Apatow, Kevin Bacon, Richard Belzer