Creator and co-stars Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam deliver a top-flight adaptation of a TV comedy in nutty, ribald “Clown the Movie,” which centers on mild-mannered Frank (Hvam) trying to prove his worth as a dad on a weekend romp that randy pal Casper (Christensen) wants to turn into a sex spree. The pic has earned more than $12 million at the B.O. in Scandinavian territories since December, which indicates a sequel is in order. Prospective North American buyers might have some cleaning up — or blurring out — to do.
Hanging the comedy on the character of an emasculated male attempting to find himself in a feminized world, director Mikkel Norgaard serves up an edgy brew that skewers just about everything Danish in sight, including the Dogma style of cinema, which comes off as increasingly passe.
In an opening sequence that both pays homage to and ridicules “The Celebration,” Frank is embarrassed to learn from others that g.f. Mia (Mia Lyhne) is pregnant; Mia insists she hadn’t yet found the right time to inform Frank. Her hesitancy stems from the fact that Frank isn’t very good with kids, evidenced by his awkward manner around Mia’s chubby, insecure 12-year-old, Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen).
Frank’s dilemma takes centerstage, put in stark relief by Casper’s unstoppable drive to get laid as often and with as many woman (aside from wife Iben, played by Iben Hjejle) as possible. Frank is surrounded by middle-aged men needing to prove their manhood, including an all-male book club (cast with various notable Danes, including filmmaker Jorgen Leth) whose discussion of “pearl necklaces” has little to do with an examination of the work of Joseph Conrad.
Hvam’s starched, nerdy visage portrays so much internalized pressure that his character seems capable of an emotional blowout at any moment, and the key to making “clown” Frank viable as a character is that this pressure compels him to make awful decisions with the best intentions. Christensen is a perfect engine to make these choices roll down the track toward an inevitable crash, resulting in some truly inspired setpieces.
Frank arranges to take Bo on a camping trip for the weekend as a way to confirm he’s a legit dad. But Casper’s aim to use the trip as a way to score with as many women as possible ensures that a string of really bad things will happen. Whether it’s at a campground replete with comely young female campers or at a buxom cafe owner’s riverside abode, the settings become miniature worlds for Hvam, Christensen and Norgaard to stage loose yet carefully constructed sequences culminating in total disaster, usually flecked with some kind of extreme sex.
Though the sequences predictably lead to further trouble, especially for Frank, their details nevertheless surprise, while each setpiece tops the previous one for sheer outrageousness. Frank’s determination to show his devotion to Bo doesn’t lessen his clownishness yet still reinforces his humanity, while Casper’s sexcapades are partly mitigated by the manhandling he endures back home from Hjejle. Bo, however, has the final word in an ending scene that cleverly manages three things at once: to steal the idea of “The Hangover” franchise’s final slide show and insert it into the movie; to end the movie on its biggest laughs; and to set up a sequel.
Jacob Banke’s lensing toys with Dogma devices, reducing the philosophy to a marketing gimmick. Martin Schade’s and Morten Egholm’s editing drives the road trip along at a terrific clip and holds choice shots onscreen as long as needed for maximum comic effect.