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Male bonding film ‘Klown’ not for the easily offended

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Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 8:01 am

Last week I offered a few brief thoughts on some cultural issues surrounding the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., and events that have taken place since then suggest that I failed to address one of the key questions surrounding this tragedy: Is it safe to go to the movies anymore?

Anecdotal evidence, punctuated every few days by fresh reports of someone being arrested for making criminal threats and/or carrying a gun into a theater, leads me to the conclusion that, at least for a while, some moviegoers will be wary of engaging in their favorite pastime for fear of becoming the victim of random acts of violence. Domestic box office returns for “The Dark Knight Rises” in particular suggest that its earning potential has been impacted by its now-infamous status — the film has made an obscene amount of money, of course, but it is performing below expectations, and will ultimately earn less than its predecessor despite the benefit of increased ticket prices, more screenings and a wider fan base.

It seems like every day somebody tells me that they probably won’t be going to the movies for a while, “just in case.” I am politely sympathetic to their concerns, but I hope the crushing irony isn’t lost on them as they proceed to complete everyday tasks like driving their car that could crash and burn at any moment, or taking their kids to a school that could conceivably become a crime scene without warning, or stopping off for a fill-up at a gas station late at night. Some of these same people will go skydiving or whitewater rafting for kicks. They will fly in airplanes, and walk under coconut trees — all of which are demonstrably more dangerous and likely to result in injury or death than going to see a matinee. It shouldn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that it’s a numbers game, and you’re more likely to be struck by lightning or die in a car wreck on the way to the theater. So please, calm down.

Now, I’m not saying you should go to the movies, because by and large, you shouldn’t. Yet your reluctance shouldn’t be based on fear of violence, but rather spite and bitterness at the state of mainstream film. This summer, with only a smattering of quality superhero flicks and an “Alien” prequel to pass as grand spectacle, has underlined the fact that discriminating movie buffs should often be getting their fixes elsewhere. (For instance, this week, instead of a jaunt to the theater, I favored a double bill of “Die Hard” and “Road House” accompanied by cheap whisky. And I had at least five to seven times more fun than I would have at the multiplex. Just sayin,’ it could become my regular Saturday night thing.)

A good theater alternative these days is On Demand viewing, and since I rarely get the opportunity to review independent or foreign films outside the end-of-the-year blitz, I figured this would be a good time to pass along a brief recommendation. Please enjoy. And I offer one last plea: If you’re going to the movies this week, be not afraid — and make sure you’re buying a ticket for “The Dark Knight Rises.”

I love it when Americans are shown up. It’s not that I’m anti-American, in the usual sense. But a lot of the time we seem to take our superiority for granted, and when something comes along that challenges the United States’ claim to dominion, it can hopefully give us an opportunity to display true American spirit by rising out of our complacent stupor to reclaim our rightful place at the absolute top of the game. You know, reaching for the moon and falling amongst the stars and all that good stuff.

Consider the genre of hard-R gross-out comedy, a field that has been ruled with authority by Americans (and to a lesser extent the British) for decades. And although we still do some of the best stuff, even genre devotees must concede that our sauce has gotten weak of late. Enter “Klown” (alternatively titled “Klown: The Movie,” based on the long-running Danish comedy series and originally released in its country of origin in 2010) to give us a right good spanking, and show us how things are done in terms of well-developed, taste-offending comedy.

The film follows two friends, Frank and Casper (series stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen), as they embark on a first-annual canoeing trip, sold to their significant others as a nature-oriented male bolding experience. Their true intentions are more debauched, and their misadventures include a statutory rape escapade, casual sex with a random woods dweller, and an exclusive annual party based around blackjack and hookers. Along for the ride is the 12-year-old nephew of Frank’s pregnant girlfriend, whom he wishes to impress with his ability to care for a child.

Needless to say, “Klown” is not for the easily offended. The film goes further with more risqué gags than most American comedies would dare touch to begin with, and it’s truly refreshing to see such a no-holds-barred display of bad taste. Not all of the jokes work (the movie’s first major comedy set piece falls completely flat), but the movie is imbued with such a jovial spirit that it hardly matters. It also offers some (perhaps ironic) sentimentality to go along with the crudity, but that too is tempered by a persistent mean streak about a mile wide. Consistently funny, bold, well-developed comedy that is geared more toward earning laughs than catering to conventions — this is how it’s done, guys. Take note.

“Klown” is playing in limited release and is available On Demand. It is rated R, and you know why.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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