Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Theaters/On VOD: KLOWN (2010)

(Denmark - 2010; 2012 US release)

Directed by Mikkel Norgaard.  Written by Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam.  Cast: Frank Hvam, Casper Christensen, Marcuz Jess Petersen, Mia Lhyne, Iben Hjejle, Lars Hjortshoj. (R, 91 mins)

Produced by Lars von Trier's Zentropa Entertainment, KLOWN (released in its native Denmark in 2010 as KLOVN: THE MOVIE) is a feature-film spinoff of the hugely popular Danish TV comedy series KLOVN, which ran for six seasons from 2005 to 2009.  Considered to be a sort-of Danish equivalent to CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, KLOWN certainly owes Larry David a huge debt in terms of its structure, its squirm and discomfort factor and its use of Danish celebrities popping up to offend, or be offended by, the well-meaning but socially hapless Frank (Frank Hvam), who gets himself into similar CURB-style situations, only with more raunch and body fluids.  KLOWN is very often screamingly funny, provided you like the kind of humor that has something to offend everyone.  Unlike CURB, a lot of the gags tend to lean toward the shocking and disgusting, but there's a wit, a sophistication, and a surprising heart to it that lifts it above the level of the usual American-made grossout comedies of several years ago.

Frank Hvam as Frank
Frank finds out his girlfriend Mia (Mia Lhyne) is pregnant.  She expresses concern that Frank isn't ready for the responsibilities of fatherhood.  To prove her wrong, Frank impulsively takes Mia's shy, awkward, 12-year-old nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) on a canoeing trip with his horndog, overgrown-adolescent best buddy Casper (Casper Christensen).  Casper isn't happy about Bo potentially interfering with his "Tour de Pussy," but it doesn't stop him from sleeping with every woman possible.  Misunderstandings and bad decisions abound, but over the trip, both Frank and Casper bond with the boy and, in their own unique ways, grow up.  Sort of.

Casper Christensen, Hvam, and Marcuz Jess Petersen in a KLOWN publicity shot

Sure, that sounds all warm and fuzzy, but KLOWN doesn't shy away from anything along the way.  The script, by Christensen and Hvam, tries but doesn't quite achieve the intricate construction and multiple converging storylines that are Larry David's trademark, but the situations in which Frank frequently finds himself will delight any fan of David's style of humor.  And for American audiences, the Danish celebrities who appear throughout will likely not register (I had to do some Wikipedia searches after watching).  But whether Frank is getting kicked out of a book club meeting by Grammy-winning "Alley Cat" composer Bent Fabric, accidentally ejaculating into Mia's mother's face, being cajoled by Casper into an impromptu threesome, being denied entry into a posh brothel because he's "too ugly," or failing miserably in his attempts to replicate Casper's magnetic charm ("man-flirting"), the comedic elements still speak loud and clear.

I've never seen the TV series KLOVN, but online reviews from Danish fans seem to indicate that the film is a worthy big-screen follow-up.  In addition to the Danish-centric elements, the writers and director Mikkel Norgaard dive into the film already expecting its Danish audience to be up to speed with the characters and their histories from the TV show's six-season run.  That said, the film is still hysterically funny and while that background info would be nice, it's not completely necessary to have it in order to enjoy KLOWN.  Von Trier fans will probably recognize THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS' Jorgan Leth in a brief bit as himself (dispensing terrible advice to Frank), and followers of Danish politics will spot former Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen.  Casper's wife is played by Iben Hjejle, best known to American audiences as John Cusack's girlfriend in HIGH FIDELITY (2000).  But excepting any Americans who lived in Scandinavia over the last decade, the appearances of Fabric, Danish pop star Medina, TV host Mads Brugger, novelist Ib Michael, and former TV executive Mikael Bertelsen will likely be lost on all but the most devout American students of Danish pop culture.  But even without the full effect of being able to put these cameos and other incidental elements into their proper cultural context, the language of comedy is universal, and the very R-rated KLOWN is one of the year's funniest films.

THE HANGOVER director Todd Phillips and EASTBOUND AND DOWN's Danny McBride are currently in the writing stages of a US remake of KLOWN.  Don't do it.  Just stop.  Please.

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