Among Denmark’s most renowned artistic exports are “The Little Mermaid” and other stories from Hans Christian Andersen. Scores of children around the world gobble up these fairytales via Disney film or picture book — and are thus distracted from otherwise screaming their heads off and annoying their parents. More recently, Denmark has made yet another valuable media contribution to the realm of giving parents a respite from the vexations of child-rearing: the 2010 comedy Klown.
Klown offers a very different kind of respite from “The Little Mermaid”; while the latter helps smother children’s cries in Disney-fied fantasies, the former can allow parents (and others too) to sit back and enjoy a laugh at their own predicament. Inspired by a Danish sitcom of the same name, Klown tells a story about a man’s struggles with the concept of “fatherhood”. Its seemingly mild-mannered protagonist Frank is not actually a father — but he will be soon if his girlfriend Mia doesn’t abort their baby. An abortion is on the table because Mia doubt’s Frank’s “father potential”, and this worries him.
Frank sees an opportunity to prove himself when he’s tasked with babysitting Bo, Mia’s timid 12 year-old nephew. He decides to take Bo along on a canoeing trip he has planned with his charismatic friend Casper, which sounds innocent enough if it weren’t for the fact that it isn’t just a canoeing trip. While Frank’s goal is to take Bo on a father-son-esque adventure, Casper sees the trip as his “Tour de Pussy”, an opportunity to perhaps pick up some high school girls before ending with a bang in a classy riverside whorehouse. Obviously there is a difference of expectations here.
As you might’ve noticed, Klown is quite the opposite of a child-friendly fairytale. The film employs heavy cringe humor, and other commentators have compared it (and the sitcom it’s based off of) to Curb Your Enthusiasm. As I haven’t seen that show, I’d personally say Klown is a rough bastard child of The Hangover and Little Miss Sunshine (another good comparison would be a lesser-known Danish documentary on North Korea called The Red Chapel). While Klown shares The Hangover‘s vulgarity, it presents that vulgarity in a much calmer and slower-paced manner. The film addresses a huge array of taboos ranging from pedophilia to homosexuality, but Frank and Casper approach each of them in a rather casual manner, as opposed to screaming “OH MY GOD SOMEONE ROOFIED US!”
Compared with most comedies, which oftentimes put trashiness far above thoughtfulness, Klown is a great production. In terms of its impactfulness independent of genres, its value doesn’t hold up to something like Hot Fuzz, which I would consider both a good comedy and a good movie in general. I’d certainly recommend Klown to people who enjoy offensive humor, but I don’t think it’ll become a cult classic. I’m not a parent — so I didn’t have any kids to escape from with this film. Nevertheless, it was still a welcome respite of political incorrectness in a world increasingly filled with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”.
Klown (Danish: Klovn) — Denmark. Directed by Mikkel Nørgaard. First released December 2010. Running time 1hr 40min. Starring Frank Hvam, Casper Christensen, and Marcuz Jess Petersen.