In 2012, at the time of its release in the United States, Klown was positioned as a revolutionary comedy—an antidote to raunchy but crowd pleasing road trip adventures like The Hangover. Klown was a black sheep, more akin to Jackass than a Judd Apatow movie and more taboo in its first half hour than the majority of most mainstream R-rated comedies. Based on the Danish series of the same name, Klown was part of a lineage of television cringe comedies (like the conceit behind Curb Your Enthusiasm most of all, which is similarly about a reasonably well-known celebrity caricature), mining humor from the escalation of the quotidian details of life—and also some incredibly uncomfortable-to-watch sexual exploits.
The six season series and the first movie have enough all-time gags for at least a few spectacular Youtube highlight reels, but it’s harder to pin down this year’s sequel, Klown Forever, which is cynical and sentimental in equal measure. Taking place five years after the original, which portrayed the horrific social awkwardness of Frank’s (Frank Hvam) journey to prove his parenting bonafides to his girlfriend, Mia (Mia Lyhne), Klown Forever finds him fully immersed in his responsibilities as an father with a young daughter, Cora, and a newborn baby.
Meanwhile, Casper (Casper Christensen), Frank’s constant partner-in-crime, is still very much a self-centered, raging horndog. But Klown Forever is less about Frank and Casper’s misadventures than it is the realization that it’s difficult to be best friends with someone who’s in a different place in his life. The latest evidence of, and final straw in, their friendship is, ironically, a book about their friendship, which is only weeks away from publication. And that comes before Frank’s belated discovery that Casper is leaving their mutual home of Denmark for the United States—a sting sharpened by the fact that Frank finds this out through a newspaper article.
Thus, the lion’s share of the film takes place in California as Frank tries to mend their friendship, and become inevitably entangled in the duo’s usual antics. The film dips its toes early into some shaky racial territory with a disastrous run-in with two black women who work at a dog shelter-Casper’s obsessed with the idea of a Dane owning a Great Dane—but the film never, strangely, takes advantage of its Los Angeles setting. Some attempts at gentle celebrity skewering, namely with a cameo by Isla Fisher, whose authentic British accent becomes the basis of one of the film’s best long-running set pieces, are just that—gentle—but the majority of its jokes feel unusually basic given the usual intricacy of Klown’s gags. In particular, a recurring bit with Casper’s Native American maid falls flat, even as it leads to one of the single best punchlines of the film.
Rhythmically and structurally, the film is perhaps best comparable to Michael Winterbottom’s two Trip features. As Winterbottom’s does, veteran Klown series director Mikkel Nørgaard shoots Frank and Casper with a handheld, purely observational style. But, since so much of Klown Forever is a comedy of errors, maybe a deeper, more rigorous consideration of framing would have benefitted the film’s tone.
Perhaps Klown Forever’s direst missteps come care of two conflicts which seem like egregious attempts to insert drama, rather than organic evolutions of an earned plot. The first involves a major celebrity cameo, but the person is not an actor by trade, and the context is already so implausible the scene is an absolute mess. The second involves Casper’s daughter, Cille (Simone Colling), and it takes up nearly the whole third “act” of the already loosely held together film. There may be a naturally hilarious contrast in the demeanors between Colling and Hvam—Hvam freaks out about everything while nothing phases Colling—but their whole interaction just feels like it’s delaying a stale inevitability.
Even in its bum moments, Klown Forever doesn’t bear a whiff of desperation. It may never quite justify its own existence, but it takes as much time as it needs to make sure every detestable detail is in service to characters for whom the film truly cares. Which still feels a bit revolutionary.
Writers: Casper Christensen, Frank Hvan
Director: Mikkel Nørgaard
Starring: Casper Christensen, Frank Hvam, Mia Lyhne, Simone Colling, Lars Hjortshøj, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Isla Fisher
Release Date: September 2, 2016