Never has the disclaimer ‘No animals were harmed in the making of this film’ ever been a more welcome sight at the tail end of a film’s closing credits; for those of us that religiously stay put until they’re finished, that is.
Writer / Director Anders Thomas Jensen’s dark comedy is as bizarre a concept as you could hope to dream up.
On the tiny Danish island of Ork, with its dwindling population of in the region of forty inhabitants, there resides a reclusive old man in a ramshackle old mansion, or so rumour has it.
Through a poorly video-taped revelation from beyond the grave, hair-lipped, dysfunctional brothers Elias (Mads Mikkelsen – over-sexed and with an obsession for the girls), and Gabriel (David Dencik – a more sensible type, but with an inability to sustain any sort of relationship), learn that their late father was in fact not their father at all, and that the same is true of the mother that they in fact never even knew!
The ‘brothers’ for whom life has offered few positives, drop everything, compelled to journey across from the mainland in order to meet the mysterious old man of Ork, for it is he that they are informed is their true father.
The mayor of the island and his terminally miserable daughter reveal to the boys just how difficult the island is finding it to both attract and more critically retain new blood, and encourage the pair of them to remain on Ork. There are clearly underlying reasons for this shortage of inhabitants, as the boys will discover in due course.
Being attacked by an assortment of stuffed animal-wielding, fellow genetically-challenged men on arrival at their father’s huge dilapidated house, is certainly not the kind of welcome that ‘prodigal sons’ Gabriel and Elias were anticipating. To compound their bewilderment comes the staggering realisation that these aggressors are in fact actually their brothers; brothers that they weren’t even aware that they had!
Much in keeping with existing family traits, each of these newly-discovered hair-lipped lunatics appears to be in some way afflicted by an idiosyncrasy peculiar to themselves.
Gabriel and Elias are impatient to meet their father, but fobbed off at every turn with limp excuses, and so, despite their intense curiosity, the brothers have no choice but to try and be patient and wait things out for a few days in the big house where chickens run loose, a prize bull lives in the basement, and evidence of poorly executed, warped taxidermy is strewn about left, right and centre.
It’s all highly peculiar to say the least, and believe me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Unknowingly for Gabriel and Elias, this innocent visit to meet their ‘biological’ father, is one that will reveal some devastating truths about the brothers – all of them.
Men and Chicken is extremely funny in places, whilst shocking and utterly ludicrous in others, but always engaging. It’s a dark, refreshingly non-politically correct comedy within which beats a genuinely warm heart, and which asks pertinent questions about social acceptance and society’s obsession with vanity.
As I’ve often mentioned in the past, it really is a hard task to successfully adapt a funny concept into a full-blown comedy motion picture, particularly one that’s quite so rich in slapstick humour and visual gags as this. Credit then to Jensen, in developing characters who at times seem so hopelessly bereft of life skills it’s painful, you simply can’t help but sustain a vested interest in their welfare throughout, as they stumble awkwardly upon warped revelations galore. This sense of engagement is very much the key to the success of Men and Chicken, a film that by way of its sheer oddity, is as compelling as it is amusing.
With genuinely funny comedy feature films about as rare as an actual laugh in Zoolander 2, thank goodness then for the ever present threat of being beaten about the head with stuffed poultry and old fashioned tin baths, whilst musing upon the wonder of warped genetics.
Basically, thank goodness for Men and Chicken.