The latest production from Zentropa productions (Lars von Trier’s company; however, he’s not one of the producers) is out to shock, but also entertain. It tests its audience within the first 20 minutes with a particular prank that is especially outrageous, and very funny. I wouldn’t dare say what it is except it involves an especially silly sexual concept that works so well because of the nonchalant acting. It’s the kind of gag you’ll either find funny, or you want to leave the theater right away
The story, loose as it is, concerns Frank’s attempts to impress his pregnant girlfriend with his potential fathering skills, so he decides on a whim to take along her nephew, Bo (Marcuz Jess Peterson, perfectly awkward as a chubby 12-year-old), on a canoe trip. But it’s not just any canoe trip. Oh no, this one involves Frank’s woman-hungry friend Casper (Casper Christensen), who dubs the trip the “Tour de Pussy.” He means to find some tail out in the wilderness.
From here the film is a series of episodes and vignettes about the trio’s misadventures, mostly caused by Casper’s attempted (and/or successful) trysts and Frank trying to become a father-figure for Bo. The content is more akin to The Hangover or any given hard-R comedy, but its deadpan style is like Curb Your Enthusiasm, with a hand-held camera used not too jarringly to cover the super-cringeworthy spectacle of men who keep screwing up. Is it anywhere near the acerbic genius of Curb? Not really. The real goal here is to raise the raunch factor in set pieces where Frank squirms and Casper gets his rocks off (or almost dies trying).
Frank (Frank Hvam) is a decent guy, or tries to be, so when he gets pulled onto this wild ride by his one-track-minded friend, we root for him to extricate himself with some dignity intact. There’s a scene in the red-band trailer that lays this out perfectly. Frank shares a bed with Casper while the latter has a woman in bed…. and they ask Frank to join them. It’s silly, and ludicrous even (why wouldn’t Frank sleep somewhere else instead of sharing the same bed with two other people?), but the humor works because the actors play it as understated as possible. The pay-off is smart in its stupidity, if that makes sense.
I don’t think the film will stick quite in my mind as much as other raunchy comedies—this is not Animal House or Dumb & Dumber or even The Hangover when it comes to really memorable ribald displays of human behavior—but I will remember these actors and some of the situations they stumble into. If the movie wasn’t in Danish and didn’t have those pesky subtitles that Americans don’t seem to like, it would certainly be a big hit. As its best, Klown (named for a six-episode Danish TV series) is a minor cult sensation. And at its worst, it’s fittingly filthy entertainment.