If Forrest Gump lost his interest in chocolates and fell in love with high explosives, it might inspire something like “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.”
Here’s a new category of films: violent Swedish comedy. Spiritual anguish, slow-moving drama, actors in the dark and rain, wearing depressing clunky knit jumpers — that’s the sort of thing Nordic cinema is famous for. So how does this movie manage to make a bunch of annoying people getting knocked off so thigh-poundingly funny?
Despite its less-than-inviting title, the film is a hoot. Director Felix Herngren’s movie, about a centenarian who escapes his old folks’ home for cross-country escapades, smashed northern European box-office records. Based on Jonas Jonasson’s 2009 comic novel, a global hit selling more than six million copies (and well worth a read), the movie works great outside of Scandinavia, too.
The story follows Allan Karlsson (played by Swedish comedian Robert Gustafsson) from his youth to way, way past retirement age, hitting themes ranging from crime to family life to international politics. Allan is thrilled by dynamite, perhaps because a fellow Swede invented it. Through it all he is an innocent kid at heart, with ample common sense but limited brainpower.
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Gustaffson, who played the role at 50, manages to be persuasively old and impressively lively and the sort of enjoyable character you’d like to go on the lam with.
“Nobody has meant more to me in my life than my cat, Molotov,” he says early on. When we learn why he named the nice tabby after a bottle bomb, we understand that Allan is a bit slow but far from feeble. Many elder movies totter along like drab “Marigold Hotel” snoozers, but this is a rocket-speed riot start to finish.
When the prospect of burning out 100 candles on his birthday cake bores him, Allan abandons the nursing home. His aimless walk starts at the nearby cemetery, underscoring the idea that life is to be enjoyed while we have it. Lighting out at the bus station for a trip to anywhere, he’s ordered by a young thug to watch his suitcase.
Allan does as asked, taking it with him when his bus departs. Now, in addition to the local police trying to locate Allan, he’s sought by international criminals who had millions in cash stuffed in the luggage.
Cockney actor Alan Ford, who played the iconic Mr. Big-type gangster in Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch,” is hilariously identical here, furiously fuming at the knuckleheaded henchmen who can’t catch slow-moving Allan. Their frequently fatal efforts, often zipping along to the sound of wild Gypsy jazz, include the funniest elephant gag in film history.
While heavies try to track down Allan, he reminisces about his youth and his undying love of explosives, which over the decades made him a partner with Franco, Stalin, Harry Truman and a Russian gulag buddy of Albert Einstein’s idiot brother, among the multitude of historical bloopers the film offers. His unrealistic life lessons keep him in good touch with the growing number of nicely rounded characters who offer him getaway help.
I can’t think of a better getaway movie from the idiocy of daily life.
THE 100-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED
Cast: Robert Gustafsson, David Wiberg, Mia Skaringer, Iwar Wiklander, Alan Ford.
Director: Felix Herngren.
Running time: 1:54.
Rated: R, for language and some violence.