On Blu-Ray from Mon 5 Jun

Films based on a successful sitcom rarely capture the essence of the show in the transfer from the small screen to the cinema.  Irritating characters get amplified beyond endurance, or a plot conceit that works over thirty minutes gets strained to breaking point.  Sometimes it’s dragged back for a last hurrah when it should have been allowed to die with something approaching dignity (hello Absolutely Fabulous).  With Klown, it’s harder to say, as the show is Danish and the film version is the first exposure most English-speaking audiences will have to these characters.

Described as a gross-out Curb Your Enthusiasm, Klown follows deadbeats Frank and Casper (Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen) as the leave their long, long, long-suffering partners on a road trip in search of debauchery.  Or at least that’s what self-styled lothario Casper is seeking.  Schlubby Frank has kidnapped his nephew to show that he’s capable of being a father to his unborn child.

Klown aims to take cringe-comedy to as extreme and vile a limit as it possibly can.  It has something of a cult reputation in this regard.  However, beyond a few admittedly jaw-dropping set pieces (which in all honesty just about justify the film’s existence) for the most part it’s fairly non-descript.  When compares to the other awkward comedies it emulates, it falls down hard.  There is none of the mad creativity that crackles throughout every minute of Borat, and it certainly doesn’t have anywhere near the sophistication of the writing in Curb.

In terms of the dynamic of the characters and its themes of the stunted development of middle-aged men, it plays like a much coarser (and obviously inferior) version of Alexander Payne’s Sideways. In fairness to the film, it seeks to undermine these characters every step of the way, and it’s almost admirable how far the stars go to hack down their masculinity.  Again though, they might be vaguely palatable over the course of an episode, but ninety minutes in their company is just gruelling.

Aesthetically, Klown is a deeply ugly film to look at.  There is no imagination in either the direction or the cinematography.  Perhaps the aim was to stay true to the look of the show, but it just feels cheap and nasty.  It’s as if the mean-spirited grotesquerie of the story has seeped into the screen.  It adds to the overall dispiriting experience of watching the film.

There are moments in Klown that will have you laughing in scandalised horror if your sense of humour is in any way slightly twisted, but there are long stretches of hateful No-Man’s-Land between the jokes, and for a comedy that simply isn’t good enough.