VOD Review: The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.
A Swedish Centenarian with a habit of blowing things up has all the charm you could want this season.
After slogging through Little Box of Horrors, I decided I needed to catch something light. My search for good movies brings us to the top grossing movie to come out of Sweden. A charming story from start to finish, you might not laugh out loud, but you’ll be surprised at the end how a smile never left your face.
In this new piss soaked hell-hole (Editor’s note: peepee soaked heck-hole) we find ourselves in, it might be hard to find hope. To see the good in humanity. To carry on a single day. We need a hero. A man with a vision, with intelligence and wit, and an unwavering moral compass. Or a 100 year old Swedish man that likes to blow things up. Take what you can get.
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared. (2013)
Based on a best-selling story, the highest grossing movie to ever come out of Sweden (that wasn’t a “Sweeded” remix of Ghostbusters by Jack Black) is about the fantastic adventures of the long lived Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson).
We meet our protagonist a few days before his centennial, living alone with his cat. The cat is his most cherished partner, and this partnership is quickly severed by a hungry fox. Heartbroken, our hero does the only thing a man can do in this situation: tape hot dogs to a bundle of dynamite and set a trap for that bushy tailed bastard. After blowing up his nemesis (and half his property), the local village decides it’s time for our old Mr. Karlsson to maybe be placed in assisted (and supervised) living. Which he promptly escapes from, stealing a young skinheads suitcase full of money in the process. Yes, the first five minutes of this film are THAT delightful. And it only gets better from there. Well, it stays as good, nothing can top blowing up a fox with hotdog camouflaged TNT. It’s just a fact.
The Dude is as The Dude Does
This mishmash of “The Dude Abides” and “Stupid is as Stupid does” is a perfect summation of the two major plots in this movie. In the present day, we see a very Coen Brothers-esque film about a mellow man on the run from the police and skinheads (at least that’s an ethos, dude), who escapes bizarre situations by equally bizarre, charmingly pragmatic means. At the same time, he attracts a very eclectic cast of accomplices (including an elephant,) through the sheer gravity of how easy going this man is in the face of the absurd. How does he do it? 100 years of practice, that’s how.
In the other plot-line, we get the backstory of Allan’s life, and how he came to be such a laid back pyromaniac. Because this man loves to blow things up and that leads him on adventures that Forrest Gump would be flabbergasted by. Young Allan was abandoned at an early age by a father who fanatically believed that condoms could save the world (so, the opposite of Mike Pence), and a mother who died of consumption. Her final words to him were “Thinking will get you nowhere, what is, is, and what will be, will be.” and the final gift to him was a camera and a bunch of leftover gunpowder. Thus began an infatuation with blowing shit up that gets him committed, castrated, recruited into WW1, enlisted in the Manhattan Project (now there’s a bang), abducted by Stalin, turned super spy by Reagan, and finally secreted away with his new cat (the eventual fox-food tabby named Molotov) by physicist Yuri Popov’s son.
Paging Mr. Herman…
Both adventures are pleasantly moved along by strong visuals and a winsome soundtrack. The vistas are panoramic and pastoral (well, except for the Gulag, but hey, it’s a fucking Gulag), once again juxtaposing how the normal and everyday life of Allan keeps brushing up against the grand and insane. The special effects are almost all practical, which makes sense for capturing the essence of a man that likes the comfort of gunpowder and nitroglycerin. The exception is a few CGI scenes with the elephant, which were still more believable than anything they tried in Zoombies (PS. Fuck you Zoombies, Fuck you!!!). It all had that almost too idyllic feel that helped the latest Pee-Wee Herman outing give you that sense that you are watching a world that is similar but weirdly apart from our own.
Speaking of Pee-Wee, the music is lots of oom-papa and carnival-esque music, so much so that I had to check whether Danny Elfman had done the soundtrack. It sounds exactly like the fare we got in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Matti Bye the composer chose an excellent inspiration in Danny Elfman, as the feeling of watching an odd yet entertaining world is perfectly accentuated by the music.
His Own Man
While this review has been chock full of references to other movies, The 100 Year Old Man manages to feel like it’s own animal at the same time. The production values feel quaint and homey compared to Mr. Gump’s outing. The Swedish and Euro-centric values that inform the historical events further distance it from Robert Zemeckis’ heartwarming tale of unlikely American Exceptionalism. This man may be simple, but he loves a good tipple of alcohol, is almost unfazed by the death that sometimes surrounds him, and has a matter of fact way of talking that would seem rude if it wasn’t coming from such an honest and simple man.
Adding the current day adventure as a place to jump off into aspects of his history also elevates the film. If we just had the cat and mouse with the Skinheads (just take them bowling, works every time) it would be easier to declare The Big Lebowski a better film. The same applies with the past adventures when compared to Forrest Gump. The combination makes the film much stronger than just a sum of it’s parts.
The Value of a Smile
While this film never left me rolling over with laughter*, I got to the end credits and realized I had had a smile on my face the entire time. Which seems fitting for a story about a man that never sought big things, he just wanted to be left in peace with his cat (and to blow stuff up). And sometimes, a simple smile is all you need.
*After that fox met his baloney scented maker, I went outside to have a smoke, a chuckle, and to tell a group of senior citizens that I sometimes share my movie reviews with what a gem I was about to watch. I hope I didn’t give them any ideas. If shit starts blowing up in Lewiston and a bunch of octogenarians are implicated: sorry. My Bad.