Shakes the Clown (1991)

shakestheclown

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Bobcat Goldthwait makes his directorial debut on this dark comedy that Pennywise and the Killer Klowns want to see as it revolves around someone like them, a clown with no morals.

Shakes is a clown who goes to birthday parties to make the kids laugh with his neat bunch of tricks. However, there is just one small problem. He’s an alcoholic. Waking up hungover every day, Shakes may bring delight to children but he’s a nightmare for other adults, especially his girlfriend Judy, who has grown tired of Shakes’ drunk antics and decides to dump him. His friends Dink and Stenchy break the news to Shakes that his dream job of becoming a kids’ show host has been thwarted by his arch-nemesis Binky, who also pines for Judy’s affections.

Shakes ends up going a downward spiral. Despite his attempts to go cold turkey, things go too far, and he eventually is in a major slump. However, things are about to go from bad to worse. When Owen Cheese, Shakes’ old family friend and manager, is found dead, Shakes is the prime suspect. Together with Judy, Dink, and Stenchy, Shakes intends to clear his name and find out who killed his friend and why.

During the 1980s, Bobcat Goldthwait was at his prime as one of the top comics to transition into films, with his iconic screeching voice and performances such as the reformed gang leader turned cop Zed in the Police Academy franchise and Hot to Trot helped solidify his reputation. Today, he is more known as a director, mainly doing dark comedies and this film makes his feature film directorial debut, which he also wrote and takes the lead role.

Those expecting Goldthwait’s trademark screeching from back in the day will be sorely disappointed but yet see that him playing it straight in some aspect works very well here. The fact he plays a drunken clown may say a lot about polar opposites of what we saw in the 1980s to this film, released in 1991. Just kidding, but what’s great is that Goldthwait is excellent in the lead role, going from miserable drunk to someone who finally sees the errors of his ways especially when he is framed for murder. The first of the party antics is actually a fun part of the film and the only time we really see Shakes at his high point before the downward spiral.

What’s, or rather who is more fun to watch are the supporting cast members, from Julie Brown as Shakes’ on-off girlfriend Judy, who aspired to be a pro bowler; Blake Clark as the cross-dressing clown Stenchy and a pre-fame Adam Sandler as the shy blue haired Dink, Shakes’ two most trusted buddies; and the future SpongeBob SquarePants himself, Tom Kenny, who brings a both conceited and freaky performance to the role of Shakes’ arch-rival Binky, who even makes up his own show lyrics to the tune of the Trammps’ hit “Disco Inferno” that’s both fun and creepy at the same time, considering his light blue tuxedo. There’s also an extended cameo from the legendary Robin Williams as a mime teacher who attempts to teach a disguised Shakes the art of mime to well, exactly what you would expect from the comedy legend.

Shakes the Clown is a wonderful in a bat-s**t crazy kind of way directorial debut for Bobcat Goldthwait. He proves here he doesn’t need to resort to his old shtick, try something new, and succeed. This is the best of the drunken clown films and Pennywise and the Killer Klowns can learn a thing about using comedy though Shakes himself…just kidding. Cue the circus horn!

WFG RATING: A-

An I.R.S. Media Production. Director: Bobcat Goldthwait. Producers: Ann Luly and Paul Colichman. Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait. Cinematography: Bobby Bukowski and Elliot Davis. Editing: J. Kathleen Gibson.

Cast: Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Tom Kenny, Blake Clark, Adam Sandler, Kathy Griffin, Paul Dooley, Tim Kazurinsky, Paul Kozlowski, Robin Williams, Florence Henderson.

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