Judge Bill Gibron laughed more at the idea of this movie than at the film itself.
Those ditzy Danes…
Ever heard of the show Bottom? Probably not. It was an infamous British sitcom from the early '90s and starred former The Young Ones (and longtime creative partners) Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall. Hilariously violent and shockingly inappropriate, the series followed two perverted English welfare cases whose daily life consisted of hurting each other and plots to acquire sex, drugs, and a way off the dole. Though it only ran for three seasons, it became a sensation in its home country, leading to several stage shows and a feature film. While Edmondson and Mayall denied that Guest House Paradiso was a true extension of the show (the character names were different, even if their actions and attitude weren't), it still represented an entertaining exploration of what the guys did on a weekly broadcast basis.
By now, you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with a weird little Danish comedy called Klown? Well, quite a bit, actually. It is a film based, somewhat loosely, on a TV series entitled Klovn. It offers two characters—Frank (played by Frank Hvam) and Casper (played by Casper Christensen)—who resemble their small screen alter egos. It was and remains hugely popular in its homeland, earning six seasons and comparisons to such celebrated American fare as Curb Your Enthusiasm and, oddly enough, Jackass. On TV, much of the humor was based around the outrageousness found in everyday life. In the film, our heroes are sex-obsessed cretins who go on a canoe trip nicknamed "The Tour of Pussy." When a wrench is thrown into their plans, in the personage of Frank's nephew, Bo (Marcuz Jess Peterson), it barely stops the debauchery.
You see, Frank is having a hard time convincing his girlfriend, Mia (Mia Lyhne) that he has father potential. She is pregnant and may abort the baby because of her partner's ineffectualness. Casper, on the other hand, is using his high-placed connections to finagle an invitation to an important businessman's annual—and exclusive—brothel. Featuring female flesh from around the world, he can't wait to go on the make. Unfortunately, Bo needs to be looked after (his parents have recently married and are off on their honeymoon) and Mia can't handle it. So Frank and Casper take the boy along on their adventure, which includes a run-in with some less-than-horny high school girls, a weirdly manipulative hermit lady, and the most potent marijuana in all of Europe. Along the way, Frank tries to play parent to his young charge. The results, however, confirm everyone's worst fears about the immature man.
For most of its running time, Klown is conveniently bizarre. It features highly paid professionals thumping each other on the nose as a form of punishment and relationship advice involving the NSFW concept of a "pearl necklace." It mocks homosexuality, feminism, Danish popular culture, and the penis-driven desires of its main characters. It even brings in elements uneasy to the American aesthetic (read: pedophilia and child sexualization) while borrowing heavily from such examples of cinematic insanity as The Hangover and Borat. Some of it plays as painfully real. At other instances, the movie meanders before settling on another scatological set-piece. About the only thing Klown avoids is the US obsession with farts and feces. Other bodily functions take the place of such poop priorities, arguing that even the Danish have their limits.
But does this mean Klown is a comedy classic? Or even a winning example of the bad taste humor subgenre? Well…it's hard to say. Hvam's characterization can be best described as Buster Keaton with even less emotion, while Christensen comes across as a gaunt, goofy Gordon Ramsey, had the famous chef formed a synthpop band in the '80s. They aren't endearing or loveable, so all we have is Peterson's sad sack kid to keep us connected. As for the jokes, many of them are merely serviceable. Of course, if you think anally violating a woman (at her request) while she is having sex with someone else is the height of sophisticated wit, you'll fall about laughing. On the other hand, if you are looking for character-driven humor in which wild antics and atrocities are inserted, seek said solace elsewhere.
Indeed, Klown feels like a primer for patterning Western excess success. It's got full frontal male nudity, borderline offensive outbursts, and a last act reconciliation which makes all the previous perversions play like one big basket of "boys will be boys" bravado. It can be incredibly clever and engaging. It is also pedestrian and pedantic, relishing in its own ridiculousness before finally deciding to end our head-scratching. Granted, there will be those who look at the overall effect of the project and pronounce it a success. But unlike Guest House Paradiso (which is as hilarious as it is hateful), or something like Slim Susie (a brilliant 2003 Swedish riff on Quentin Tarantino and American action movies), Klown can't completely come together. Instead, it's slapdash and uneven.
Offered on Blu-ray by Image Entertainment and Drafthouse Film, the transfer here is pretty terrific. The 1.87:1/1080p high definition widescreen image is excellent, using a lot of natural light and earthy components to make its often-outsized characters grounded. Director Mikkel Nørgaard, free of the small screen restraints of television, still relies a bit too much on the handheld, shaky cam approach, but the movie looks bright and colorful, with lots of detail. On the sound side of things, the lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix adds a lot of ambient noise to the outside channels. There are also some neat music cues, easy-to-understand Danish dialogue (with expert English subtitles), and a weird theme song that sounds like The Odd Couple as envisioned by Goblin.
As for added content, this disc is loaded. First off, we get a commentary track featuring Nørgaard, Hvam and Christensen. They all speak excellent English and deliver a decent blow-by-blow of what it took to bring the TV show to the big screen. We then get an example of the Klovn series, and it's an eye opener. Then there's a 41-minute making-of, a couple of behind the scenes featurettes, a collection of deleted scenes, an alternate opening, and an outtakes reel. Add in some trailers and TV clips and an enclosed booklet and you've got the perfect complement to a completely unknown property.
As for Bottom…well, it's remains such a well remembered show that Edmondson recently announced that he and Mayall will revisit it—if not specifically, at least in spirit. This is great news for those who fell in love with the bone crunching brutality of the slapstick showcase. As for Klown, you'll either love it or loathe it. It's hard to imagine any middle ground here. Just recognize its desire to offend and you'll be prepared for what comes next, if just barely.
Not Guilty, though not as great as many in the critical community have made
it out to be.
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