A wise man once said: “An adventure is not an adventure until there’s an elephant involved.”
Okay, no wise man said that. I made that up, hoping to coin a witty phrase that would capture the absurd and absolutely crazy esprit of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (original Swedish title: Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann). Robert Gustafsson, “the funniest man in Sweden,” stars in this delightful comedy that may or may not be the illicit love child of Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump and Guy Ritchie’s Snatch.
Much like Forrest Gump, we have a man in the present day narrating the on-screen story of his life while engaging in some hairy behavior for a man his age. Allan Karlsson (Gustafsson), on his 100th birthday, escapes from the nursing home he’s been put in after being deemed unfit to live on his own. He’s as fit as he can be at his age, he’s alert, he’s capable of making sound decisions, so why is he now in a nursing home? After finding his pet cat’s fox-ravaged corpse, his method of revenge on said fox would be considered rather… incendiary to most folks. You see, he’s addicted to blowing things up, and he’s rather good at it.
While on the run, he is given (more or less, you have to look at the wording and the circumstances) a heavy suitcase, the contents of which spark a whole lot of to-do when Allan disappears with it. This is where the combination of Forrest Gump and Snatch (remember: the former’s a sweet family movie while the latter’s a hilariously hard-edged crime film) comes into play. While Allan recounts his life to the people he encounters, the gangsters that want the suitcase try desperately – with morbidly funny consequences – to get it back. The rest of the film gives us a sidecar view of Allan as he escapes to nowhere, breezily going where the winds will take him.
Gustafsson, in old-age makeup and prosthetics, plays Allan like a man whose only care is to get through to the next place or job or dinner. Nothing is troubling to him; he merely assesses each situation, shrugs, and then deals with it in an almost offhand fashion. The scene that sums up this whole film to me features Allan being a coffee runner to Robert Oppenheimer (Philip Rosch) and the rest of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project; his love of and experience with explosives turns him from errand boy to having a front row seat at the test detonation. He goes where his adventures take him, no matter where it is or what side takes him. Even when he’s in jail and saddled with Herbert Einstein (David Shackleton), Albert’s dumber twin brother, he walks through the scenes without paying heed to his dire circumstances. As with Snatch, the body count comically rises and the police haven’t a clue how to stop it or where to find Allan, as he’s seemingly only one step ahead of everyone just by choosing to embark on the next journey or joyride.
It’s that kind of humorous indifference – I wouldn’t call it a lack of care or disrespect, but it’s something along those lines – that makes The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared so mirthful and enjoyable. Director and co-writer Felix Herngren keeps the laughs coming at a fairly steady pace until late in the film’s third act, where the laughs get put on hold for a little while as the gangster situation resolves itself and the parallel story Allan’s telling moves him into his older years, where there’s not much to laugh at. The humor doesn’t fully drain from the picture; as Allan’s life slows down, so, too, must the movie.
Even as I write this, I’m smiling while I remember the events of young Allan’s life and how he moved through it. There’s something to be said about watching a man waddle (you’ll see why) his way into building bombs and working with some of the seamier folks in our recent past; trouble is, I just can’t think of what else to say. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a howlingly funny recount of history through an explosion addict’s eyes that takes him the world over and leaves him (and us) wanting more. There are capers, there are gunshots, there are car chases, there are kisses, and there are many, many laughs. Everything a great adventure should have… and there’s even an elephant.
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Alan Ford, comedy, David Wiberg, Felix Herngren, Hans Ingemansson, Iwar Wiklander, Jens Hultén, Jonas Jonasson, Mia Skäringer, Movie Review, Philip Rosch, Ralph Carlsson, Robert Gustafsson, Sweden, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared