Considering that humor is the most universal language in film, it’s a shame we don’t get exposed to more movies like Klown. This Danish comedy offers some of the best laughs of the last couple years, balancing both the deadpan style of today’s indie comedies with enough mainstream antics that a Hollywood remake seems a foregone conclusion.
Based on the popular Danish television series of the same name that ran for six seasons starting in 2005, it seems strange that an audience (though I should first speak for myself) with absolutely no familiarity with the show — let alone a show in another language — could fully enjoy the proceedings.
The truth is that the best premises tend to deliver the best comedies, and the fact that this movie centers on two adult men in committed relationships set to embark on a canoe trip they have deemed the “Tour de Pussy” says it all. Add to the mix that one of them, Frank (Frank Hvam), brings along his girlfriend’s 12-year-old nephew to prove to her that he’s father material, and you know that wildly inappropriate mishaps lie just around the river bend.
Frank is a bit of a schlemiel, a simpleton without his own volition who believes primarily and somewhat naively in honesty above all else, though that’s soon to be corrupted. He finds out through a friend that his girlfriend, Mia (Mia Lyhne) is pregnant, and she has serious doubts as to whether Frank can be a proper father. When her nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) sleeps over, Frank sees his chance, but he messes up when he flees the house during a break in, leaving Bo asleep inside.
Rather than drop Bo off at his grandparents’ the next day, Frank decides to bring him along on the canoe trip, much to the chagrin of his friend, Casper (Casper Christensen), a wealthy, sex-crazed man with little to no moral compass. So long as Frank abides by “pussy before fatherhood,” Casper is willing to deal.
Klown is a road trip comedy of a smaller scope as it doesn’t take place all that far off into the Danish countryside. Nonetheless, a campsite full of teenagers, a remote “pancake house,” and a mansion full of international prostitutes are among the eventual destinations. On the surface, those sound like setups for comedy ploys from 2001, but Klown has a much more organic brand of situational humor, somewhere between Judd Apatow and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Much of the laughs derive from the script’s lewd nature. Hvam, Christensen and director Mikkel Norgaard all collaborated from a writing perspective and the synchronicity between them shows, as does their somewhat perverted sense of humor. Their film is simply unabashed in the way it deals with and depicts sex.
At times, Klown is so deadpan in its approach to sexual activities (evidenced by the trailer, in which Frank assists Casper during intercourse by briefly placing his finger in the woman’s anus), that you can’t avoid the realization that it could’ve never originated in a country as censored as America.
At the same time, the nudity in Klown is tame compared to Hollywood comedies; it only shows as much as it needs to. Plenty of moments could have been inflated with additional bare parts, but Klown is too down to earth to run rampant with it.
As all the best comedies do — and what might seem most surprising for a film this explicit — Klown isn’t lacking heart either. Frank strives to bond with Bo, even though the context in which their relationship will have to bloom comes with an implicit degree of failure. A substantial subplot of the movie deals with the size of Bo’s willy, an issue that perfectly captures how throughout the trip, Frank straddles the fence between a man-child and a man who believes he is responsible enough to look after a child.
Although his failures are many and his general way of dealing with problems won’t generate much sympathy, Hvam convinces us down to the core that Frank really wants to prove himself a capable pop, he just happens to lack certain basic instincts, and that’s how we begin to identify with him — that pure frustration at being aware of a personal challenge and feeling powerless to change it. It’s a stark contrast from Casper, a character so superficial and contradictory that you needn’t even think about caring for his welfare and just laugh hysterically at him.
Comedy is such a matter of personal taste, and that’s likely to be amplified by the fact Klown is a foreign language film. It does require an openness to different comedic sensibilities, because as much as humor is universal, it can also vary radically from country to country. Klown, however, has a greater multitude of comedic ingredients that maximizes its appeal to a range of audiences, so it deserves a tryout, or at least not to be ignored because of its quirky foreign packaging.
Klown will be released on July 27th in the following locations: