When Drafthouse Films, the Alamo Drafthouse's film distribution branch, started up last year, it became clear fairly quickly that the company would be making some rather bold choices. Given Drafthouse's selections for Fantastic Fest, Drafthouse Films' own roster would surely fall in line with the sort of edgy genre fare hosted at their annual festival every year. So when they announced the acquisition of 'Klown,' based on the Danish television series of the same name, it was fair to assume that the film would be something special -- and special it is, though that may be an understatement.
As far as Drafthouse Films acquisitions go, 'Klown' is yet another home run for the company, whose catalog also includes the Academy Award-nominated Belgian drama 'Bullhead,' and the festival favorite 'The FP.'
The film follows friends Casper and Frank, played respectively by Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam (who also serve as writers for the series and film), as they embark on a canoe trip to a music festival for a weekend of debauchery -- and for Casper, a weekend of raging infidelity, which he hopes to impose on his best friend. Unfortunately, Frank's wife is pregnant and in an effort to prove to her that he has what it takes to be a father, he brings his nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) along for the ride.
Casper and Frank evoke a filthier version of 'The Odd Couple,' with Frank being the more soft-spoken, aloof straight man, and Casper being the dirty, womanizing cad who we might blame for most of the pair's misfortunes, if Frank weren't so willing to follow his friend's often terrible advice. The two get themselves into a string of mishaps, typically involving sexual encounters due to Casper's insatiable libido -- the situational comedy made all the more uncomfortable and hilarious with Bo hanging around.
Though Frank and Casper have been playing these roles for years (the television series went on for six seasons in Denmark) and the characters are heightened extensions of themselves, the real star of the film is Bo, whose simple facial expressions and quiet demeanor make a great match for the frantically-paced improv of his older co-stars.
'Klown' may draw inevitable comparisons to 'The Hangover' (particularly one gimmick used at the end of the film) in terms of edgy humor and situations, but 'Klown' has something that film -- as lazily as it tried -- did not: a heart.
Although the film doesn't so much push the envelope as it delivers a roundhouse kick to it instead, at its core it's a story of two grown men coming of age as they unwittingly guide a young boy into manhood. Bo has a problem, you see, in that he can't urinate standing up, and an ongoing theme in the film is Frank trying to teach him how to pee properly to avoid getting picked on and bullied. What begins as Frank trying to prove that he can take care of a child becomes a film in which Bo has something much more important to teach Frank about himself, and, something he may be hesitant to realize, that he is a capable and nurturing man.
'Klown' touches on something that no one really teaches adults when they have kids -- you'll never be fully prepared or really know what to do in any given situation, but even if you screw up along the way, the point is that you were able to enrich your child's life and teach them something important. While 'Klown' is most definitely one of the most hilarious, edgiest comedies to hit theaters this year, its secret weapon is its poignancy and genuine approach to the relationships between these men and this little boy. The characters are empathetic on a visceral level, the outrageous scenarios in which they find themselves notwithstanding.
'Klown' is in select theaters and available on VOD now.