klown-posterReleased: 2013

Genre: Comedy

Directed by: Mikkel Norgaard

Starring: Frank Hvam, Casper Christensen, Marcuz Jess Petersen,

Originally a hit in Denmark in 2010, this movie length expansion of a TV comedy has garnered attention since the writers and stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen were hired by Sacha Baron Cohen to script his new comedy. It’s easy to see why this blunt and outrageous film now has a UK release. Brash, crass and puerile, it may be, but it’s also frequently hilarious.

Taking up their roles from the TV series, Frank (Frank Hvam) and Casper (Casper Christensen) are settled middle class men in Copenhagen. Both have partners and a comfortable life but this is not enough. The highlight of the year is their debauched trip in a canoe, dubbed Tour de Pussy by Casper, who hopes to take in local highlights including a high class brothel and impressionable young students on a school trip.

Things are complicated when Frank’s girlfriend Mia (Mia Lyhne) reveals she is pregnant but doubts his ability to be a good father. To prove he has great father potential, he kidnaps his 12 year old nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen) and takes him on the trip, much to the disgust of Casper. They then proceed to launch into a series of misadventures ranging from eviction from a campsite for inappropriate behaviour with a minor to a drunken, drugged up rampage at a music festival, and even armed robbery.

It doesn’t take long to establish the tone. The opening scene makes Frank’s preoccupations clear when he mistakes Mia’s offer of a teacake for sexual favours.  But if Frank is often idiotic, and capable of dubious decisions, Casper is revoltingly single-minded. Tour de Pussy comes first and nothing will get in his way. There is really no misreading this for anything other than a raucous sex comedy.

That might not appeal to everyone, but when a large number of the set pieces along the way deliver pure comedy gold, it doesn’t really matter. At its best, Klown is an oddball yet effective combination of Sideways and The Inbetweeners. The characters are petty, cruel and stupid, yet there is just enough warmth invested to avoid overstepping the mark in some of the more controversial moments.

The edge of acceptability is pushed on more than one occasion, but they step back just in time. Many of the most shocking jokes come from nowhere as characters trade repulsive remarks in such a breezy conversational style that they could just as easily be talking about the weather. Instead, topics include the best way to show your love for a woman (the suggestion put forward is not advisable if you want to remain in a relationship for long) to the diminished size of Bo’s genitals and even a surreal sex scene where Frank is invited to join the fun in one of the least erotic ways I’ve witnessed.

Hvam and Christensen are clearly comfortable in their roles. They’ve been playing them for long enough in their long running show. While Christensen gets to ham it up with a neat line in over the top debauchery, Hvam gets the best lines as he embarks on a stream of misguided attempts to show that he has what it takes to be a good father.

Funny as many of the jokes are, it’s quite clearly a TV show adapted for the big screen. The plot is threadbare and the extension to feature length begins to wear in the second half. After a while, the time spent between comic set pieces becomes a slightly dull drudge as energy levels dip. Shot with shaky digital cameras, attention is drawn too often by jarring zooms mid shot, again revealing the low budget TV origins.

Given the sketch comedy approach, it’s inevitable that a fair few of the jokes also fall short. While some appear faintly unpleasant, a significant proportion just aren’t funny which is ultimately a worse sin in a comedy. Still, the hit ratio remains high enough to ensure a stable supply of laughs.

Klown is what happens when Carry On humour is updated for today’s explicit age in a country with a more liberal and open attitude towards sex. You might not want to sit down and watch with all the family, and it doesn’t always work, but when it does I don’t think I’ve laughed as much this year.

★★★

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