Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

Sex, Drugs, & Blah, Blah, Droll

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is a slack-jawed hagiography that is content to bay at the moon with self-reverence. Director Douglas Tirola examines the crude craftsmanship behind the bedraggled throng of comedians, artists, and tittering hyenas known, affectionately, as National Lampoon. The documentary follows the wily troupe of booze soaked satirists with a jack-o-lantern smile. Now and again we hear devastating stories about addiction and loss, but we’re always kept at arm’s length from the disillusion and resentment. Instead, we’re given beer can studded recollections of wacky parties and good times. One National Lampoon member even goes as far as to say his experience was not unlike Paris in the 1920s. It’s hard to find any of these anecdotes to be affable or interesting. These were the times, and you had to be there, man. Because of the haughty, self-absorbed filibustering, it’s easy to feel like the interviewees are talking at you, and not to you. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead – opening October 9th at Landmark’s Ken Cinema is less of a documentary than it is a carousel of talking heads extolling the cocaine dusted virtues of being cool. Baby Boomers need only apply.

When Tirola isn’t snickering behind the camera over National Lampoon’s animated party stories, he actually probes into interesting subject matter: How were the publication’s covers constructed? How did this motley crew shoehorn advertising into their unhinged magazine? What kind of stories were being leafed through each issue? While the aforementioned topics are addressed, it feels as though Tirola is trying to motor through them so he can get to his next boob reference.

The carnal, morally wonky, and confetti blasted aesthetic is paramount to telling National Lampoon’s tale, there is no doubt. That said, this is a case of all CGI and no story. With so many personalities in the publication’s office, this documentary cant find a way, within it’s brief 90 minute running time, to flesh each individual out. And, because of that, we’re stuck with a broken kaleidoscope of disjointed names.

You will recognize many faces in the documentary, including a random appearance by Judd Apatow. Maybe Tirola thought that Millennials wouldn’t get the movie without a familiar huckster to explain things to them. John Landis, acting with more energy than a Benny Hill sketch on fast-forward, also appears in the film. National Lampoon alum, such as Chevy Chase, are propped up in front of the camera, ready to regale the audience with outlandish recollections. There’s also a hip, period appropriate soundtrack that feels prefab as they come – can anyone make a movie about the 1970s without using David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie”?

By the end of Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, you begin to wonder if the doc was meant to inform or to brag – and it becomes quite clear that it is the latter.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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