Review: Danish Comedy 'Klown Forever' Is Pure Shock Value

In 2013, Danish comedy Klown rocked our shores. An adaptation of one of Denmark’s most successful TV comedies, the film was hailed as the Danish equivalent of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Hangover, with its cold mockumentary style and shocking cringe humor. While I did not manage to see Klown in either of its forms, as a huge comedy nerd I’ve been terribly excited to catch this year’s sequel to the franchise: Klown Forever.

The film continues to explore the lives of Casper and Frank, two washed-up Danish comedians based on fictionalized versions of Klown’s real-life creators and stars. The two characters have been through a lot together, we learn. They used to be inseparable best friends, but more recently Frank has been concerned with his life as a family man at home, maturing him into a person who aging party-animal Casper no longer gets along with.  When Casper decides to up and move his career oversees to America, Frank feels the need to take a trip over and patch things up with his former bestie.

Having seen the film, I now understand the caparisons to Hangover and Curb, as the film seeks out every possible opportunity to have Frank say the wrong thing and make everyone around him uncomfortable. However, to my western comedic sensibilities it seems that the difference between those films and Klown Forever is our modern American insistence on subverting expectations. The popular comedy of our country relies heavily on anti-jokes and unconventional takes on moments we’ve seen before, whereas Klown Forever knows what jokes it wants to say, and isn’t concerned about taking an especially new or creative path to get to it. There are several obvious tropes and setups used in this film that are played off in a far more sincere manner than I’ve ever seen in an English language movie. The film is also incredibly dry. It took me a good half hour before I came to a scene I laughed out loud at. Perhaps there was something lost in translation with the captions, or maybe you just can’t communicate the timing of awkward humor through subtitle. Either way, something about the film just didn’t land right with me. Are these traits particular to Danish humor or is that just uniquely Klown Forever? Ignorant American that I am, I can’t say, but I did find it a little hard to get past nonetheless.

Ultimately, there are some moments in Klown Forever that are just straight funny regardless of language. Unfortunately, they are surrounded by some very questionable setups that I suppose were aiming for a shock-value laugh that just didn’t land for me at all.  Again, it’s hard to say if these are actually jokes that don’t land, or just once that don’t land to an American. Perhaps a native speaker would enjoy this movie more, but it left me a little disappointed.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5