To win his girlfriend's approval, the meek, repressed Frank (Frank Hvam) takes her young son on a canoeing trip through the Danish wilderness, but his randy pal Casper (Casper Christensen) sees only the opportunity for an unbridled sex romp; cue a train wreck of ridiculous escapades.
BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Depending on your ability to endure comic embarrassment that keeps edging over into the painful, Klown will often leave you laughing hysterically or covering your eyes with your hands. Both, at the same time, may well be the optimal outcome for this raunchy Danish gross-out comedy which one in five of the country’s inhabitants has now seen according to box-office figures. What that says about Danes, and how they perceive themselves, is one of the few knotty questions this movie doesn’t grapple with.
The humour has a grotesque reality
Frank (Frank Hvam) and Casper (Casper Christensen) – who scripted the often improvised feature with story input from director Mikkel Norgaard – are best friends who can see middle-age but nonetheless haven’t quite shaken adolescence. The former is rash, prone to blunders and mystified by the social disasters that stem from his efforts to do the right thing, while the latter is a smoothly charming alpha male whose philandering lurks behind every decision he takes. They are a nightmarishly funny double act: dedicated to each other but unable to resist each cravenly putting themselves first.
When Frank learns that his partner, Mia (Mia Lyhne) is pregnant and doubts his 'father potential", his efforts to hold on to her, despite not being interested in children, soon turn into seconding her 12-year-old nephew, Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) onto a canoeing trip that Frank and Casper have planned. It is, of course, a disaster, mainly because Casper doesn’t try to amend his ways despite a child being present, and Frank’s attempts to fix things go perpetually wrong. The threesome – more accurately, a two-point-fivesome – with a local woman who takes them in after they capsize their canoe is just one unhinged misadventure.
This is all sounds familiar to audiences, as grown men act likes boys and circumstances conspire to have them chased, hit and publicly shamed, but what separates it from the likes of The Hangover and its repetitive sequel is that Norgaard shoots the movie with a matter-of-fact, handheld aesthetic. If it looks like anything, Klown – which is spin-off of the creator’s successful television show of the same name – resembles a dry sitcom (the original Office, or Curb Your Enthusiasm) that also has elements of the Dogme movies. Shorn of musical cues and bug-eyed reaction shots, the humour has a grotesque reality.
Bo appears to be rather gormless, and even though the movie can’t help but give Frank the momentum to want to make amends and eventually prove himself, Klown doesn’t tiptoe around a child’s presence. Bo’s guardians take him to a music festival, where they get high and drunk, eventually deciding that he has seen and heard too much to be allowed to freely return to the proximity of wives and partners. Their solution, naturally, is to find a way to blackmail him, setting up just one of many situations that are disastrously revisited in a later scene. These (Danish) men behave badly, but this sometimes hilarious comedy does enough to distinguish them from their brothers-in-harm around the cinema world.