A boy whose unusual proclivities toward blowing things up take him on a life journey through many great world events. This is the premise of writer/director Felix Herngren’s film The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window And Disappeared, which is as whimsical as its title suggests.
Though the title doesn’t really suggest the blackness of the comedy here, unless you realize the original original title of Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann, which is Swedish for “All Old People Must Die”.
I kid the Swedes. The English title is, in fact, a faithful translation of the Swedish. Unlike some other films.
But it is Swedish, and as we know, Swedes can be a morose bunch, which makes the light-hearted tone of this film—notwithstanding the body count which is easily in the double-digits—a pleasant surprise.
The movie begins with our hero, Allan Karlsson escaping his old age home moments before his 100th birthday. From there he takes a bus—but when he gets on the bus, he finds himself in possession of a suitcase. The suitcase becomes the MacGuffin for the modern part of the story, as the gangsters who stuffed said suitcase full of money attempt to retrieve it from him.
He drifts from location to location, road-trip style, picking up companions along the way who end up sucked into his adventure. The first companion is a guy who’s just about the age to go into an old folks home and doesn’t want to, and you begin to think maybe the movie will make a serious statement about, say, treatment of old folks.
But then body count clicks up a notch and you realize: Nope. If there’s a message here, it’s roughly equivalent to “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries”. Death is swift, sudden and often stupid.
Along the way, the two pick up a middle-aged man who’s been in school his whole life, but has failed to finish any of his innumerable degrees, a woman who cares for an elephant stolen from a circus, and a thug who’s thuggishness is apparently cured by a devastating blow to the head.
Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we see Allan’s life, Forrest Gump-style (without all the crappy music), as he loses his father to the burgeoning Russian revolution, spends time in an insane asylum, fights in the Spanish Revolution for the Communists but ends up nearly killing but also saving Francisco Franco, builds skyscrapers in New York, helps Oppenheimer finish The Bomb at Trinity, spends quality time in Stalin’s gulag with Herbert Einstein, and then acts as a double-agent throughout the Cold War, shuttling crap intel in both directions.
It is through Allan we see that the Soviets tore down the Berlin wall because of a mistaken recording of Reagan insisting that a wall in the White House not be torn down. Reverse psychology, I guess.
Goofy and hugely disrespectful of popular history, which I much prefer to the quasi-self-seriousness/pander-to-popular-history of Gump, for example. And rather than CGI Allan into a bunch of stock footage, they recreated historical scenes with cheap sets and actors. (Though they did Photoshop him into a bunch of historical photos for promos, including Ellen Degeneres’ recent Oscar selfie.)
The reviews on this are not strong; apparently, it’s a Swedish tradition to not like Swedish films. The audience laughed fairly raucously in the theater I saw it at, and even gave a warm round of applause at the end.
Anyway, enjoyable nonsense, and probably in the top 5 of comedies you’ll see this year with a double-digit body count and a flying decapitated head.
Sidenote: Mia Skäringer, the film’s elephant caretaker is a stand-up comedian who makes me wish I understood Swedish. Then I would understand why she was in a bikini and sneakers in her show.