With “Klovn’s” television run finishing in 2009 after six seasons, celebrated Danish comedians Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen decided on a big screen transition to continue their socially awkward antics. Taking a page—whether coincidentally or not seems up for debate to some—from Larry David‘s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, their characters exist in a heightened state of normalcy. Uncomfortably dealing with life lessons alongside family and friends, these two buffoons obviously have a few screws loose when it comes to thinking before they act. Selfish, utterly aloof, and prone to ruining their lives with relative ease, the men of Klovn: The Movie [Klown] should appeal to many HBO subscribers as a result. Therefore, the fact this proud “Curb” hater found it off-putting, boring for stretches, and oftentimes misguided shouldn’t detract viewers from watching. Conversely, the surprising fact I started enjoying myself about halfway through might actually be a recommendation.
Clueless about these characters upon sitting down, it took a spell to process the existing motivations previously built within their sixty episodes of television. The pairing of a disgruntled, out-of-touch square with a no-holds-barred sexual deviant is brilliant fodder for laughs, but the execution of their introduction is a bit stale. A lot of information is quickly shared through the wedding of Frank’s girlfriend Mia’s (Mia Lyhne) sibling, including why he kidnaps her 12-year old nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Peterson) to join his and Casper’s lecherous canoe trip across Denmark. We discover Frank is an irresponsible loather of children, Mia is pregnant and unsure about keeping the baby, Casper is addicted to sex, and his wife Iben (Iben Hjejle) is clueless to the infidelity. Frank stealing the boy to prove his worth as a father ends up being the least of this film’s ultra warped indiscretions.
Soon a couple of gags meant to bolster Frank’s inability to protect a child fall flat in their redundancy, Mia’s stern look of disappointment does nothing to improve his inadequacies, and we begin to languish in the dryly dramatic moments driving the central conceit down our throats. Unbelievably, it’s a bodily fluid joke of which I’m still unsure if Casper and his book club friends trolled Frank into performing or genuinely thought it would work that saves act one from being a total loss. Grossly absurd, the fact a ‘pearl necklace’ is attempted only cements this duo’s bond. Their completely unwarranted blind faith in each other provides for an infinite amount of trouble due to an inability to grasp the meaning of decency. Thick as thieves, though, they’ll do whatever’s necessary to help their partner-in-stupidity out as long as the sex is never sacrificed.
So, this unlikely band of men sets sail on a sex tour culminating with a visit to the Castello Alleycat brothel owned by Oscar-winning songwriter Bent Fabric (Bent Fabricius-Bjerre). Filled for one night with an international cornucopia of women to pleasure the proprietor’s closest friends, this fantasy oasis becomes Casper’s Disneyland as Frank tries to make a concerted effort to keep things marginally clean for Bo. But as pedophilic misunderstandings and lofty egos soon put them on a course towards rape accusations and uncomfortable sexual liberation, the boy’s level of enjoyment rapidly turns from indifferent to excited to furious as his tour guides uncover new and worse ways to put foot firmly in mouth. While optimism may get damaged by a group of high school girls, their protective teacher (Claus Damgaard), and a lonely country lady named Ronja (Marie Mondrup), retreat is never an option.
Shot handheld for the guise of spontaneity, you must wonder how much was scripted as opposed to improvised. Director Mikkel Nøgaard appears to let his stars run wild in order to capture the most authentically unfortunate moments he can. Refusing to censor or avoid taboo, Hvam and Christensen push the envelope as though challenging each other to go further. The sex escalates from fantasy to reality to nightmare as we’re educated on the term “man flirt” and exposed to Bo’s penis unwittingly becoming a lead role. Chaos reigns as good intentions hatched badly snowball to dark emotional places, leading the comedy to follow suit and allow Klovn‘s true genius to shine through. Not quite original or excessively vulgar, the situations become less important as Hvam and Christensen’s reactions increase in hilarity—their capacity for redemption excusable only because they’ll never be able to sustain it.
If, like me, you decide to give these Danish clowns a chance and find the start a slog warranting an internal debate on whether to continue, I say stick with it. While the exposition lacks a certain polish, it does prove necessary for some of the big thematic jokes to come. Getting the boys to Alleycat will elicit giggles as the comedy slowly comes into its own, but the real fun occurs once the bottom drops to find Frank and Casper broken with nothing to lose. A little marijuana causes lips to loosen and the horror of the following morning’s wake-up call leads to even more misguided attempts at responsibility through criminal activity. Hvam and Christensen have cultivated these personas for six-plus years and comfortably destroy all boundaries—a feat appreciable even for those who dislike the film.
They are not nor ever should be anyone’s role model, but seeing the rather downtrodden Bo come to life through their sexcapades almost makes you forgive their idiocy. As one last social faux pas explains, however, their debauchery and immaturity contains no end with lessons remaining unlearned despite the heavy consequences wrought. Luckily for us, the more we realize these best friends can’t grow up the funnier they become.
Klown hits VOD and limited release on July 27th. It will begin its run at Village East in New York, Cinefamily in Los Angeles and Alamo Drafthouse in Austin.