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June 8, 2016

Movie Review: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead (Magnolia, 2015)

When you think about Harvard, you generally think of a high class Ivy League university. You expect doctors, lawyers and Wall Street businessmen to emerge after graduation. Hell, our president and first lady are graduates. That makes sense. What most people don't realize is that Harvard gave us a comedy institution, and while not all of it's members came from the famous college, The National Lampoon founders Henry Beard and Doug Kenney did.

I really didn't know much about the Lampoon as a magazine. For my generation, its legacy lies in movies such as Animal House, Vacation and even Van Wilder. Those of us that grew up in the eighties or nineties were more prone to reading Mad or occasionally Cracked. I don't even remember seeing The National Lampoon at newsstands. That could have something to do with the tits. There were so many tits. See, before the internet, we had to find pictures of naked people any way we could. That probably sounds odd to a generation that has seen nudity leave Playboy, but in those days, it was a legitimate selling point. Oh, and they had funny jokes and parodies to go with all of that.

Like many documentaries that have to rely on old photos to look into the past, DSBD does a great job using pan and scan and other techniques to animate the images and bring the old stories to life. Thankfully, we also have a great about of audio from Lampoon radio and video from stage shows like Lemmings, which brought so many future stars to the world of comedy.

Let's get into that for a minute. There are interviews with fans of the Lampoon, such as Judd Apatow, but there are also interviews with alum such as Chevy Chase and Kevin Bacon. Then we have footage of John Belushi, Bill and Brian Doyle Murray, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest and so many more. The movie does serve as a time capsule for many people that have passed over the years, but one moment really hit me hard. Chevy Chase tells the story of the death of Doug Kenney. The two were best friends. Maybe it's my having lost one of my best friends recently, but it got to me.

Honestly, the people involved told stories of strife and arguments, but overall, there was so much love. These people were family, and DSBD is like sitting in at Thanksgiving dinner. As usual, Magnolia does not disappoint. The blu-ray contains an hour of extra stories that any comedy fan would enjoy. This isn't just a movie. It's comedy history.

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