On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson (Gustafsson) escapes his retirement home in rural Sweden through a window, before setting off for the nearest bus station, where he mistakenly boards a bus with a suitcase belonging to a member of a biker gang. The suitcase is packed with cash belonging to an exiled Cockney gangster (Ford, who horror fans may remember as the cabbie in An American Werewolf in London), who orders the bikers to retrieve it at all costs. Hooking up with various misfits, Karlsson decides to flee with the money. During his journey, he recounts, through flashbacks, his extraordinary life.
Lately it seems that all it takes for a novel to become a bestseller is for its author's name to end in "sson". A few years ago the world went crazy for Scandinavian crime novels, a genre quickly dubbed "Nordic Noir", and now non-genre Scandinavian writers are also profiting. The irritatingly titled The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is adapted from a popular novel by Jonas Jonasson, a name so Swedish it can't be real, and indeed isn't. Judging by Felix Herngren's big screen adaptation, one assumes much has been lost in translation.
The premise of a seemingly ordinary man who found himself caught up in history's great moments has been milked to death at this point. If you've seen Zelig, Forrest Gump or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Herngren's film comes off as highly derivative. Presumably because the more famous figures have already been taken, Allan Karlsson finds himself in adventures with the likes of General Franco, Robert Oppenheimer and Alexander Popov. His life journey is awkwardly handled, as he seems to simply stumble from one scenario to another with no real narrative purpose. The flashbacks are introduced at random moments, rather than being triggered by any specific events in the contemporary storyline, which plays like a bad Swedish Guy Ritchie knockoff.
The movie suffers from schizophrenia; though it's subtitled, Allan's voiceover is heard in English, and the comic tone sits uncomfortably with the violence. An early flashback in Allan's life detailing his castration at the hands of a racial biologist, who fears he may have Negro blood, is particularly odd, leading us at first to believe the film intends to use Allan's innocent view of the world to critique the darker points of Sweden's past, but it leads nowhere.
Very much a product of the "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" school of film-making, The 100 Year Old Man... resembles a party thrown by someone who possesses more money than sense. As such, when an elephant randomly appears on a Swedish farmhouse, we don't bat an eyelid. Working with a budget of $9 million, Herngren certainly puts every last Krona on the screen, but he seems more interested in putting together a "come and get me Hollywood" showreel than telling an involving story.
Review by Eric Hillis
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