The improbably — and yet accurately — titled The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is quite possibly the most pure fun I’ve had at a movie this year. It is also a film I urge you to see as quickly as you can. It opens this Friday (July 24) at The Carolina on a split bill — in other words, it doesn’t have a full set of show times. I’m not terribly surprised by this. After all, it’s a Swedish comedy — albeit one with long stretches of English dialogue — that totally lacks star power. (The biggest name in the film from a U.S. perspective is Alan Ford, doing the same kind of Brit gangster role he’s played in Guy Ritchie movies.) But it does have an elephant, an engaging plot, a roster of appealing (and some appalling) characters, a blistering streak of dark comedy and, oddly enough, a surprisingly generous heart. It’s been likened to (God forbid) Forrest Gump, but, apart from the fact that our title character is involved in certain historical incidents, it’s nothing at all like that. It has a much wickeder sense of humor, a less oblivious hero — and it’s never in the least gooey.
As noted, the title is appropriately descriptive — at least of the basic set-up. Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) is a not very willing resident in a retirement home — he was put there for getting his revenge on a fox by blowing the animal up — who, on the morning of his 100th birthday, decides to slip out the window of his room and disappear. Well, he disappears as far as the authorities are concerned. We, however, follow him on his adventures — adventures that start when he ends up taking a bus as far as his money will take him. But before he sets off, he ends up in possession of a bulky suitcase that just happens to contain a large quantity of money. The money in question turns out to belong to some ill-tempered and exceedingly inept gangsters — or, more correctly and dangerously, it belongs to their even more ill-tempered boss (Alan Ford). Not surprisingly, the gang wants the money back. Somewhat more surprisingly, Allan — along with Julius (Iwar Wiklander), the man who has taken him in — determine they have as much right to it as anybody. So when they more or less accidentally freeze one of the gang to death, they get rid of the body and go on the run — at least as on the run as one old codger and one very old codger can.
Now, if it sounds like I’ve told you an awful lot of the plot, you don’t know even an eighth of it. Not only is this just the prelude to their preposterous adventures, but along the way, Allan tells us the story of his life. And it can hardly be said that his 100 years lack for incident — starting with his father leaving Sweden for the freedom of Russia, where he’s promptly executed for espousing the virtues of condoms. Along the way to 100, Allan discovers his fondness for blowing things up, becomes involved in the Spanish Civil War and the Manhattan Project — not to mention rubbing shoulders with Franco, Harry Truman, Stalin, Einstein (well, a really dumb Einstein named Thomas) and various lesser luminaries. It’s history as seen through they eyes of a man who just wants to blow things up, and history offers no shortage of opportunities to do this. The film stays pretty carefully away from much in the way of political significance, but that’s reasonable, since Allan is basically just a good guy who will help anyone who asks him, especially if explosives are involved.
The film’s absurd — even downright surreal — version of history fits in nicely and sometimes relates to the film’s central adventures of Allan and Julius, who later add three more members to their team and the aforementioned elephant. Director Felix Hengren keeps it all moving so quickly and effortlessly that the casually preposterous nature of it all seems, if not quite believable, easy enough to accept within the context of the world of the film. It’s fun and funny and outrageous, and you really don’t want to miss it. Rated R for language and some violence.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas.