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Danish "Klown" Wrong and Often Very Funny

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The late, great George Carlin once talked about “seven words you can never say on television.” The clown’s intention wasn’t purely to shock but to bring our fear of language into question. Denmark’s comic import “Klown,” which is already being trumpeted as a Scandinavian version of “The Hangover,” also has about seven or more funny-squirmy moments that don’t feel gratuitously tacked-on for shock value but are more contextual and character-based. Its brand of boundary-pushing humor (full-frontal male nudity included) probably wouldn’t fly in the states, even though there’s already a Todd Phillips-produced remake in the works. Inappropriate, wrong, and sometimes very funny, “Klown” boldly goes where most R-rated Hollywood comedies wouldn’t dare.

Frank (Frank Hvam) isn’t really a fan of kids. At a friend’s wedding, someone spills the news of his girlfriend Mia (Mia Lyhne) being pregnant, unbeknownst to Frank. She failed to tell him because she has doubts of Frank’s potential as a father. When Frank gets stuck looking after Mia’s 12-year-old nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen), he more or less kidnaps him on a canoe trip with his buddy Casper (Casper Christensen), in order to prove to Mia that he can handle kids. But while Frank is thinking about Bo, Casper just wants to get some action on their scheduled stops at a brothel (hosted by their book-club leader) and a music festival, where their friend can score them some wicked reefer. Bottom line: Frank and Casper have the worst babysitting style.

Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard, “Klown” is his feature extension of the 2005 Danish TV show of the same name, also written by its leads, Hvam and Christensen, who again play fictionalized versions of themselves. To Americans, the “two and a half men” plot will somewhat play like a dirtier, road-trip episode of that Charlie Sheen-Jon Cryer-Angus T. Jones sitcom with touches of “Bad Santa” and, as already mentioned, “The Hangover.”

Leading off with an “Odd Couple”-ish theme, we meet the hapless Frank and the horny Casper. The former’s intentions are right in wanting to be a father figure to Bo, but Frank doesn’t always go through with his goal the right way. For instance, he goes to great (and illegal) lengths to get Bo his prized model car for collecting 288 bottle caps. As for Casper, he is an uninhibited lout that perfects “man flirting” to get what he wants and is always thinking with his “other” head. When together, Casper eggs on Frank most of the time and gets both of them into the most absurd situations. What’s refreshing here is that Marcuz Jess Petersen’s Bo is not a pest, but a young misfit just along for the ride. As for Frank and Casper’s women, Mia and Iben (Iben Hjejle) aren’t really nagging shrews when one sees the awful, amoral things their men do. They deserve every consequence coming to them.

With the film’s improv-y, doc-style aesthetics, the grounded reality of each outlandish situation can be a delightfully uncomfortable experience. “Klown” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in terms of taste, but Frank and Casper’s trip of debauchery earns all of its laughs through our gasping and forehead-slapping state of shock. Even when we’re laughing, it’s hard to always root for Frank and Casper. They’re such man-child losers, especially Casper. When they make a stop at Papa Bear’s Camp, he tries bedding high school girls. Or, after they capsize their canoe and find hospitality from a plump pancake maker, Casper instigates a ménage à trois. And, by the foolish judgment of Frank, the viewer will never look at a pearl necklace the same way again.

No doubt, the prudish will find a lot of “Klown” off-putting and offensive, but everyone else should admire Denmark’s raunchy fearlessness.

89 min., rated R.
Grade: B –