Shakes the Clown (1991)
“Loved by children. Desired by women. Adored by bartenders everywhere.”
Director: Bobcat Goldthwaite
Cast: Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Bruce Baum
Synopsis: Shakes plods about his duties as party clown, and uses all of his free time getting seriously drunk. Binky, another clown, wins the spot on a local kiddie show, which depresses Shakes even more.
Any movie that features a bunch of cynical and semi-alcoholic clowns sitting in a bar complaining about their world is already half-way there to getting my vote.
Having only seen Bobcat Goldthwaite in the lamentable Police Academy movies, and hating his scratchy voice with a vengeance, I approached this film with low expectations. First scene, I knew I was wrong: final line of a record playing over and over on a record player, woman with smeared make-up sleeping on a sofa, party-hat-wearing dog standing on the coffee table eating cold pizza. Any ‘comedy’ with an opening scene like this has to have something going for it.
Goldthwait is Shakes, an alcoholic clown whose career is sliding down the pan due to his addiction, but who can still hold it together enough to entrance his kiddie audiences. As the movie chronicles his life and relationship with his waitress girlfriend and clown-friends, interspersing scenes of pathos with the crude banter of the alkie clowns in the Twisted Balloon, it chugs along nicely. Only when Shakes is framed for murder and embarks on a hunt for the real killer does the film lose its momentum a little.
This is one of those movies for which there are no half-measures, you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. And you’ll know either way within the first five minutes.
(Reviewed 12th January 2002)