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New Release Review - MEN & CHICKEN

A pair of brothers search for their biological father on a mysterious Danish island.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Anders Thomas Jensen

Starring: David Dencik, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Soren Malling, Nicolas Bro



Sadly, given the names involved, Men & Chicken, a Farrelly Brothers comedy for the arthouse set, has to rank as one of 2016's major disappointments.



There's a smug opinion held by those from English speaking countries that Europeans lack a sophisticated sense of humour. A running gag on US sitcom Cheers saw Woody Harrelson's character dip into his copy of 'The Big Book of Dutch Humour'. What would those stoic Northern Europeans know about comedy? Well I can't say I'm familiar with the comedy of the Netherlands, but in recent years, their Scandinavian neighbours have left the US and the UK in their dust when it comes to screen humour. Few recent English language comedies can compete with the likes of Klown, Force Maejure or Troll Hunter.


With this pedigree, I expected much from Men & Chicken. Denmark has given us a raft of great actors lately, and three of the country's finest - David Dencik (The Homesman), Mads Mikkelsen (TV's Hannibal) and Soren Malling (A Hijacking) - are on show here. The film is written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, who penned a couple of 2015's best movies, western The Salvation and crime thriller A Second Chance. Sadly, given the names involved, Men & Chicken, a Farrelly Brothers comedy for the arthouse set, has to rank as one of 2016's major disappointments.

When their father passes away, oddball brothers Gabriel (Dencik) and Elias (Mikkelsen) sit down to watch a video message he recorded prior to his death, and are rocked by the revelation that their biological father is actually a scientist who resides on a remote Danish island.


The two set off for a family reunion and discover they have a trio of deformed half-brothers residing in the island's abandoned asylum, which they appear to have turned into the creepiest Danish farm since the one tended to by Bodil Joensen (don't google that name in polite company). Seems old pop-pop, who curiously is missing, was conducting experiments to breed humans with animals, and his boys have been making up for the absence of women on the island by getting jiggy with the livestock.

A sort of Withnail and I meets 'Island of Doctor Moron', Men & Chicken is a comedic misfire on a grand scale, the sort of film that thinks slapping a moustache and a dodgy haircut on an otherwise handsome actor is a surefire way of generating laughs. It's reminiscent of those awful French comedies that rake in cash at home but fail to travel outside France. There's a severe lack of the sort of sardonic Scandi wit we've become accustomed to and perhaps spoiled by.


Jensen's film delves into the sort of taboo breaking territory as its compatriot Klown, but fails to keep its balance on the tightrope between cuttingly comic and cruelly crass. A date between Mikkelsen's Elias (who suffers from chronic masturbation issues - hilarious, what?)  and a wheelchair user gives the impression of a movie made by a Todd Solondz fan who completely misunderstands his idol's work. Men & Chicken's protagonists are pathetic, but far from sympathetic, and there's a cruel streak of misanthropy running through the film that makes for a disspiriting, repulsive watch.



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