Monday, August 13, 2012
KLOWN is a Kult Komedy in the Making!
- Every time I tell people about KLOWN - the outrageous Danish comedy that is like Curb Your Enthusiasm on crack - people ask me the same thing: "but how can it be funny ... if it has subtitles?" Well, I don't know, but it is. That's what happens when you've got jokes as expertly conceived and as shockingly executed as Klown's. If you're a fan of Curb, Louie, and other comedy that keeps things low-key, before building up to gut-bustingly funny punchlines, then you owe Klown a watch. This is some funny, memorable, quotable stuff - that brings the funny in hefty doses.
Klown is an offshoot of a Danish TV show of the same name. It's slice-of-life, Curb-style comedy that pairs two forty-ish guys in classic, Odd Couple fashion. Frank is our lead character - he's soft-spoken, dorky, neurotic, and tightly-wound. He earnestly tries to do the right thing, but he's often too dimwitted to realize that his efforts are going to somehow end up totally screwing him and pissing off the same people he's trying to make good with. Worse, Frank constantly seems to be led astray by his best friend Casper. Casper is the classic bad influence - though he's married, he is all about the neverending quest for girls, booze, and general debauchery. And he's always dragging Frank into his schemes. As KLOWN kicks off, Casper's latest scheme - a guys-only canoe trip designed by Casper to booze it up and meet women of loose moral fiber - comes at a particularly bad time for Frank. Frank's wife has about had it with him. She's sick of Frank's association with Casper, and wants him to grow up. She wants him to prove that he's ready to be an adult and be a father. Otherwise, she's threatened to leave him. So Frank makes a rare bold move: without consulting Casper, he decides to take his ten-year-old nephew Bo on the canoe trip. Frank wants to prove that he can be an adult and a good role model, and thus win back his wife. Only problem is: Casper is still 110% determined to keep the trip as debaucherous as ever. And so ... ten-year-old Bo is about to get the experience of his young lifetime, despite Frank's mostly-failed efforts to keep things clean.
Klown's premise is simple, but it is a great setup for all sorts of jaw-dropping moments of shock-humor. What makes it all work is the contrast between Frank - a mild-mannered, well-meaning guy - and the absolute craziness of the situations he somehow gets dragged into.
Now, there is a very TV-esque / episodic feel to Klown, and that means that sometimes, the movie does go for stretches without huge laughs. It also means that the movie can feel a bit meandering at times. But ultimately, the big joke payoffs are more than worth the slow build-up, with some truly WTF, "I can't believe that just happened" moments. What's refreshing is that, in an American comedy, you'd typically only get away with these sorts of big, shocking jokes in the context of a very big, broad, over-the-top comedy. But since much of Klown is played very straight, the crazy moments are that much more hilarious, and genuinely jaw-dropping.
I'll tease some highlights for you: in the course of Klown, Frank and Casper ... piss off a bunch of teens on a high school field trip, have a strange and perverse encounter with a cabin-dwelling woman, accidentally defile Frank's mother-in-law, and humiliate poor Bo in ways that no ten-year-old should ever be subjected to.
Another reason why the movie succeeds is Frank Hyam and Casper Christensen, playing fictionalized versions of themselves. The two have a natural, easygoing chemistry - again, similar to Larry David and Jeff Garlin on Curb - and the believability of their friendship helps ground the film. The kid who plays Bo is also a find - his hilairously stoic facial expressions and reaction shots are often priceless, and give the excalamation point to many of the film's best jokes.
Klown sometimes does feel like a Danish twist on American cable TV comedy, but the jokes and characters are sharp enough to make it work on its own merits - and it goes to places that I've seen few other comedies dare go. It's definitely got cult classic potential. And mostly, I selfishly just want people to see it so I can quote some of the best lines and have people know what the hell I'm talking about. The film is available on VOD and iTunes to rent, and in select theaters, so check it out now and see that - who knew? - the Danish can be funny!
My Grade: B+