Frank (Frank Hvam) is happily celebrating at a friend’s wedding reception when he is surprised to learn from his girlfriend Mia’s doctor that she’s pregnant. Mia hasn’t told him because she isn’t sure he‘s father material. The awkward, block-headed ectomorph with tortoise-shell glasses reacts with understandable hurt and confusion, a man who has the look of a cartoon character but has real pain if awkward social skills. This hardly seems like the start of a successful gross-out comedy, much less an art-house raunch fest that has as much in common with Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95 manifesto as That’s My Boy. But Klown, a movie version of a popular Danish sitcom, is just that. The writing, by stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen, is sharp, and it’s a very well made movie, but it crosses the line from uncomfortable to gross to virtually illegal by the end of its 90 minutes.
Lars von Trier (in)appropriately enough penned an episode of Klown the sitcom that focuses on Frank and Casper’s discovery that their significant others have signed up for a masturbation class. The resulting hijinks and inappropriate behavior becomes more and more uncomfortably funny, the writing team (minus Von Trier) have upped the ick-factor considerably for their feature film, which can be funny but more often than not is creepy.
The cast makes it work to a point. Hvam is an endearing clown who clearly feels bad about the mistakes he makes — mistakes that often are due to naive misunderstanding or forced upon him by the unsympathetic Casper. Hvam looks like a young Garrison Keillor, and his uber-geekiness could make you forgive most of his transgressions. That is, except for the ones where ethical lapses in judgment become thoroughly repugnant and probably illegal even in Denmark. A 12-year-old boy’s self-consciousness about his tiny weewee becomes a running joke that’s never funny in the first place, but becomes more and more uncomfortable to the point where you can probably see where the movie is going to take it. I just hope it’s faked.
Naturally, Hollywood is all set to jump on this bandwagon, and the makers of The Hangover are set to Americanize Klown. It is too bad the movie takes the turns it does. Frank Hvam is a watchable, likable character, but such is the game of humor that discomfort trumps the sweetness that tries to rise above the gross-out factor. If you like your laughs with a side of extreme discomfort, you’ll love Klown, but for many viewers, like me, the movie runs far past ordinary comfort lines.
Klown is now available on iTunes and VOD.