‘Klown’ Review: The Canoe Comedy is Back!

Disclaimer: Hey, gang, Vince here. You might see Laremy’s name at the top of this post. I don’t normally post reviews by other people on FilmDrunk – yes, I’ve posted Burnsy‘s and Chodin‘s in the past for movies I couldn’t cover, but I especially don’t normally post reviews of movies I’ve seen, as is the case with Klown. I thought it was funny, like a mash-up of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Hangover (but less tedious than the former and more honest than the latter), with a dose of Bad Santa and the tone of It’s Always Sunny. Probably too reminiscent of some of those to be considered ground breaking, but as well crafted as any, and surprisingly sweet for a movie so outrageous. So why I don’t I just write that? Well, because Drafthouse flew me out to Austin and took me on a canoe trip with the cast. Here’s me with Frank and Casper, the guys from the movie. Here’s me taking a picture of myself on a canoe like a huge dork. Here’s some crazy guy who brought throwing knives on the trip for some reason. I’ve got a couple interviews going up in the days to come, which should be great for you. And while I feel fairly confident that I could evaluate the movie separately from the experience, even I know trying to do that after accepting a free trip would be breaking some kind of rule, and I’m not a whore. Okay, well I am a whore, but at least I’m honest about it. So, I got Laremy to review it instead. That guy never goes anywhere. Klown hits theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, and will be available on VOD everywhere, this Friday, July 27. -Vince

Klown, a Danish film from Denmark, is funny enough that you could definitely see an American studio buying the rights, remaking it in English, and getting about 55 percent of the beats correct. Then, after you saw the compromised second version, as you were shuffling out of the theater, someone in the audience would remark, “Oh man, you should see the original.” You’d rent Klown, which I’m guessing the Hollywood studio has renamed Clooown, and end up decrying the state of the modern studio system throughout your “Danish Night!!?” film festival.

Yeesh, American studios, amiright? Bastard people, they, the whole lot of them.

So where were we? Ah yes, Klown, a movie you’ll find very little to quibble with, though one potential quibble would be the opening credits, which clock in at about two minutes (or around 140 seconds too long). This is an extremely petty complaint though, and not at all befitting of the Filmrunk empire which James Uproxx IV hath wrought. Time to get informative!

After those longish opening credits we happen upon a wedding. Drink it in. Two pals, Frank and Casper, both of whom look a little like middle-aged David Beckhams†, are giddy about their upcoming canoe trip. Well, mostly Casper is jubilant, as he’s finally found an outing his lady friend doesn’t want to go on, making him a free agent for sweet lovin’. Frank isn’t as excited, but that’s his personality throughout the film, as he’s the down-to-Earth sensible type. If you need an American comparison, you could do worse than Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms from The Hangover, though the Frank (as Helms) is slightly more askew.

Now then, at this gathering, Frank is thrown for a loop when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant … and she’s not sure if she wants to keep the baby, due to Frank’s massive lack of “father potential”. Did I mention all of this is subtitled, and takes place entirely in Danish? Though this likely costs Klown a good 20 percent in “inflection” comedy, it gives you the chance to realize folks from Denmark don’t have a word for “High Five,” they just use ours, and that they pronounce “Hooray” as if it were spelled “Hoowa”. Charming details like this will keep your spirits up until the fellas get onto the canoe trip, around 20 minutes in. But first they’ve got to pick up a third wheel, some collateral damage, a little boy named “Bo”.

Yep, Klown is the story of a young man named Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) … and his search for a bigger willie. No, that can’t be right, it’s the story of Frank (Frank Hvam) and his quest to appear fatherly. Or perhaps it’s the journey of Casper, (Casper Christensen) an enigmatic philanderer and his quest for strange love during his self-anointed “tour de pussy”. Or maybe, just maybe, this was all an overtly simple writer’s trick to tell you Klown is actually ALL THREE STORIES, you lucky angel, it’s a comedy with a capital K, the better parts of The Hangover meets Superbad. So let’s hand out some kudos, shall we?

First, the main two fellas, Frank and Casper. The first thing to love is that their characters share their real life names, a style I truly wish all American productions would adopt. We all know Tom Cruise is in Mission Impossible, so just call the guy “Tom” already. We all know Robert Downey Jr., is Iron Man, just call him “Robby” and be done with it. Who do they think they’re fooling? We’ve reached the point in celebrity media saturation where it’s more disconnecting to try to think of Tom as Ethan and Robert D-Jr. as Tony. Let’s connect on a first name basis, just like the Danish. My sources also indicate that Klown is based upon a long-running Danish TV series called Klovn (the V is silent) and that Klown is a movie adaptation of said series, although with a brand spanking new story arc. You can definitely feel the camaraderie and connective tissue between the two leads, theirs is a comedy based upon awkward and uncomfortable sex addiction paired with the all-consuming motivation to come off as cool and normal. You can certainly detect traces of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with a younger, dirtier vibe a la the current masculine trio of Workaholics, The League, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Klown is a very funny movie, you could do far worse on a Friday night.

Back to our heroes, Frank has the squarest face you’ll find this side of a four-square game (cherry bomb!) and he’s also sort of a square within his social group too. Or rather, he’s square for a European, which makes him a left-leaning liberal democrat in our society. He’ll smoke a little pot, he often forgets to read the assigned book for his gentleman’s book club, and he’s kinda / sorta kidnapped his nephew to prove his parenting prowess. Casper is pretty much “Awwww, hell naaaaah” to a boy accompanying them on the sex-capade, but through the type of circumstances that often befall raucous comedies the trio is set in motion, headed downriver. High school girls will be courted, lonely women who make flapjacks will be violated, and there will be a potential drowning or two. Characters might go gay, apropos of nothing at all. It’s all handled in a good-natured manner, even when the buddies are trying to bang Asian prosties with a little boy back at the tent. This is a fundamental difference between American and European cinema – they find more comedy in foibles and frolicking, whereas we generally want to see Mike Tyson punch a guy out. Still, there are genuine moments of outstanding levity here, the term “man flirt” comes to mind, and everything is played for laughs throughout the hour and a half you’ll be watching.

Klown is a legitimate entry into the “dark comedy” genre, though it has a certain Danish lightness to it, and the two male leads carry the day. You’ll definitely laugh at the earnestness and clever set-ups, especially if you’re a fan of debauchery and offensive situations. Overall, I’d recommend you take it in, provided you don’t mind subtitles, if only so you can be the guy shaking your head at the end of the Clooown feature, puffing on your clove cigarette, counseling people on their bullsh*t entertainment choices.

Grade: B+

†Frank and Casper are pretty famous in Denmark, and plenty of Danes came out for the Drafthouse Canoe trip and screening along the Guadalupe river south of Austin. You could tell who the Danes were because they all had that ashy shade of super-straight, blonde hair that looks like very fine straw. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Danish are like Children of the Corn. -Vince