There’s a chance you got away with bringing your mother or father to one of the bawdy “The Hangover” films, with their boys-club jokes regarding sex, drugs, alcohol and homophobia. You’re probably not going to be able to pull off the same stunt with “Klown,” which takes the formula of upper middle class men behaving badly to increasingly disturbed, disgusting places. Of course, it’s because of the film’s casually profane tone and commitment to pushing the boundaries of taste and acceptability that makes “Klown” a step above “The Hangover,” a lack of fear towards the lawlessness with which those films only flirt.
An early wordless cameo by “The Ambassador” himself, Mads Brugger, hints at the film’s intentions early on, in a sequence where a group of friends convince the hapless Frank (Frank Hvam) of a way to win back his angry girlfriend’s affections. Their improbable suggestion, involving a filthy ritual to be performed in her sleep, is the sort of idea picked up by an idiot who does not know of social customs, and signifies immediately that “Klown” is about men who try to add new structures to old lives, while still somehow fearing encroaching threats of wholesale lifestyle change. In a way, Frank is both the dumbest and the most liberated of the group, so guileless as to embark upon even the worst suggestion. The fact that “Klown” is based on a hit television series suggests that this is a weekly occurrence.
Frank’s new challenge is something apparently spectacularly out of the realm of his comfort: he’s going to be a father. Never once feeling at home in his own skin, Frank still pals around with the same friends he’s always had, and his hesitance with marriage suggests a lack of forward momentum. With blind enthusiasm, he announces that he’s destined to be the father of this child, skill set be damned. Of course, grand pronouncements tend to take precedence over real life, so Frank somehow overlooks that he’s scheduled a boat trip with friend Casper (Casper Christiansen) at the same time he’s meant to babysit his transient twelve year old nephew Bo (poor Marcuz Jess Petersen).
Despite the randy Casper bragging about their canoe ride being a “Tour de [anatomical female body part]” Frank takes the child along, somehow thinking that fatherhood can be learned by osmosis. Naturally, the boy is an awkward sort, bullied and mocked by others, and with no real interests of his own besides collecting bottle caps for a ridiculous-sounding contest. Casper, naturally, protests, but soon realizes that this is his excuse to remove the chaste Frank from the equation, freeing him to stalk and seduce co-eds, and even, unscrupulously, high schoolers.
Of course, the result is really that poor Bo grows up on the fly, becoming an unwitting participant in Casper’s debauchery, with Frank cajoled into following the trail of breadcrumbs left behind by Casper’s misdeeds. Bonding occurs, with Bo revealing that most of his insecurities come from the insufficiencies of his manhood. Naturally, this becomes a plot point — there is no 2012 release that will be nearly as obsessed with the nether regions of a preteen boy quite like “Klown.”
Outside of brief set-up, “Klown” is mostly pratfall-based, lending an episodic feel to Frank and Casper’s adventures, and a certain weightlessness that comes from a disregarded ticking clock: the men are traveling to an unlikely hidden brothel that ends up becoming one of the more straightforward elements of the plot. Still, it’s impossible to avoid feeling that, like many before “Klown,” this film is arbitrarily checking off the bad-behavior boxes rather than exploring the consequences of these actions. Like “The Hangover,” the film also ends with a photo flip show depicting some of what we had missed. Like most of the film, it humiliates Frank, though, in small doses, it provides a peek at a mentality that “Klown” often subverts in fascinating ways. [B]
“Klown” is in theaters and on VOD starting Friday, July 27th.