The dictionary defines “picaresque” as “telling a story about the adventures of a usually playful and dishonest character.” That pretty much sums up this long-winded, but often hilarious, film, in which a centenarian recounts his extremely colorful life while absconding with millions in drug money, aided and abetted by a ragtag group of characters he encounters along the way.
It’s Allan Karlsson’s 100th birthday, but the still spry geezer decides to blow off his party by jumping out his bedroom window at the elder care facility where he’s living. Stumbling into a local bus station, he’s tasked by a biker type with holding onto a suitcase while the youngster hits the loo. Then he absent-mindedly takes it with him onto a bus headed for Nowheresville, Sweden. And that’s when the fun begins.
Turns out the bag is filled with cash, property of a Cockney gangster based in Bali who’s counting on his Swedish partners to send it to him. As he is pursued across the country, Karlsson manages to accidentally pick up a group of partners in (inadvertent) crime that includes a 70-something drinking buddy, a perpetual student paralyzed by indecision, and a divorcee who lives in the boonies with an elephant her ex stole from a circus.
While this group is running from the bad guys – and manages to kill off a few of them in hilariously offbeat ways (think: elephant) – director Felix Herngren’s film flashes back to Karlsson’s past, which was nothing if not event-filled.
It seems our hero – hold your breath now – was castrated in a mental hospital; fought Franco during the Spanish Civil War; joined the Manhattan Project; was kidnapped by Russians who wanted him to help them build their own bomb; was sent to the gulag; then escaped and became a double agent, spying for both the USSR and the CIA.
All that plot is, in a sense, what’s wrong with this film – there is just too much of it. Although often extremely funny in a very droll way, there is so much incident, so many crazy things happening, that after awhile you want to scream, “Enough already!”
It’s not that “The 100-Year-Old Man” doesn’t have its pluses. The cast is totally game for this nonsense, and some of the comic riffs are truly inspired – Karlsson’s lifelong love of explosives provides some really funny moments. But in the end, Herngren’s film is simply too much of a good thing. Ten to 15 minutes shorter, with less going on, this would have been one of the most fabulously zany films of the last few years. It’s still fun – just not fun enough.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
B Cast: Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg
Director: Felix Herngren
Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Rating: R (language and some violence)
Raleigh: Colony. Chapel Hill: Chelsea.