A lanky speccy guy is lying in bed reading when his wife crawls in beside him. “Would you like some yummy yummy?” she asks. Looking expectant, he immediately pulls back the duvet, to reveal white vest tucked into white underpants. He looks ridiculous. We laugh. And then he learns that when she said “yummy yummy” she meant chocolate cream puffs, not sex. We laugh again.
The tone is set for Klown, a comedy going large on the humour of male embarrassment, male emotional autism, male sexual foolishness, male dumbness in particular. Strangely enough, this sketch-driven comedy appears to be aimed largely at men.
Spun off from the taboo-skewering Danish TV series, the film went locally by the name of Klovn: The Movie, which is either a nod to Abba: The Movie, the first film to do the The Movie thing. More likely, the English language nomenclature suggests that Klown was aiming itself at a wider market.
What that market might be is apparent after a quick squint at the plot précis: after a few more amusing misunderstandings, Frank (Frank Hvam), our speccy guy, has agreed to take his 12-year-old nephew Bo along on a canoeing holiday organised by his horndog mate Casper. Frank hopes that this will prove to his pregnant wife, who is now threatening to leave him, that he’s father material. Casper (Casper Christensen) is furious. The entire holiday – the “Tour de Pussy” – is an excuse for him to get laid. Two guys, a kid, a canoe, a holiday, lots of paddling time to shoot the shit, this is definitely an excursion into Judd Apatow or Todd Phillips country. And if Klown ever got remade it would be Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, or Stiller and Owen Wilson, or Wilson and Will Ferrell, or Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, or… or… or… who would be the barely-grown-ups in the boat.
The reason why this won’t get remade is because there would never be a scene in which Vince Vaughn (or any of the others) calmly has a piss with the 12-year-old replacement for Bo, and they discuss the size of the pre-pubescent boy’s penis. In fact a very large percentage of the film’s plot revolves around Bo’s penis, in particular its remarkable smallness.
It’s hard to imagine anything coming out of the US or the English-speaking world (Australia, maybe excepted) that would wade into territory like this with such abandon. Klown is produced by arch-provocateur Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa outfit, which explains a fair bit. In fact you can imagine early script meetings consisting of a few guys sitting around, drinking beer and coming up with the most appalling scenarios, then another member of the team staggering back from the bar with a fistful of Tuborgs shouting “I can top that”. Hence the “pearl necklace” sequence, or the equally WTF buttfucking sequence, all topped off with the film’s final shot, the memory of which is making me laugh while I type this.
Women? Not many. Iben Hjejle – who was in High Fidelity a few years ago – is particularly good as the skanky Casper’s partner, able to blow from sweet to tornado in about half a second. But, like its US counterparts, this one is really all about the men.
I’m still not sure how funny it is. It knows where the taboos are and it heads for them like a pheromone-crazed moth. The performances are absolutely deadpan, which really helps, and director Mikkel Nørgaard (who worked on Borgen) knows when to end a scene and move on. Hang on, I stand corrected about the “will never get a remake” bit. Having just had a squint at IMDb, it looks like Hvam and Christensen are both involved in an English language remake of this film, called Clown. Whether it dares to go as far remains to be seen. After that the pair are working on Sacha Baron Cohen’s next film, The Lesbian. Now that’ll be interesting.
© Steve Morrissey 2013