• Shakes The Clown

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: August 15th, 2017.
    Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
    Cast: Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Kathy Griffin, Paul Dooley, Adam Sandler, Robin Williams, Tom Kenny
    Year: 1992
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    The Movie:

    Written, directed by and starring Bobcat Goldthwait, Shakes The Clown tells the sordid story of the titular clown (played by Goldthwait himself) as he goes about his fairly mundane existence in the town of Palukaville working as a party clown. He entertains kids at parties and what not, and when he’s not doing that, he’s sleeping around with various women (one of whom is played by Mrs. Brady herself, Florence Henderson!) behind the back of his girlfriend, Judy (Julie Brown), an up and coming would be pro bowler. Oh, and he drinks. Boy, does Shakes like to drink.

    When Shakes loses out on the TV clown gig he’d hoped to get when he’s passed over in favor of rival Binky (Tom Kenny), his drinking gets even worse. His friends like Dink (Adam Sandler) and his boss Owen Cheese (Paul Dooley) see it and try to keep him on the straight and narrow, but no dice. Shakes just can’t seem to stay on the wagon. When Owen winds up dead, murdered by a pair of nasty rodeo clowns, and Shakes gets framed for the killing he decides to go undercover posing as a mime to solve the murder and clear his name.

    Clowns, just like drunks, can be funny and they can be sad. This movie sort of embodies that duality in a lot of ways. The clowns here are working stiffs, looking to unwind at the local bar after a hard day’s work putting on a fake smile and entertaining kids they have no real affection for. If they can score with a lady now and then, even better. They’re blue collar, hard drinking womanizer types and it’s clear that, in the case of Shakes especially, the bottle’s got a hold on him. Not even the thread of being fired is enough to get him to swear off the sauce for good. We laugh at him rather than with him (when we’re not pitying him, though it’s never really implied that we should feel sorry for him as he brings so much of his misfortune on himself). Feel good movie of this year this most definitely is not. But it is funny, if not always in the way you expect it to be or even want it to be. The movie spends a lot of time trying to balance the characters’ humorous exteriors with their rather seedy ‘real life’ personas. Much of the humor stems from this contrast and most of the time the juxtapositions are pretty effective.

    Deliberately paced, the movie is nevertheless pretty engaging, even during its slower moments. Most of the credit for this goes to the cast. The supporting players are pretty fun here, even Sandler, who never even really comes close to beig the annoying caricature he’s turned into lately. Tom Kenny, best known for his work on Mr. Show and as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, is fantastic as the lead rival in the picture. Binky is egotistical, unkind, even malicious. He’s selfish, narcissistic and vindictive. Shakes might be a bum, but for the most part he’s a nice guy even if he’s prone to one mistake after the next. You can’t say that about Binky. Goldthwait is great in the lead, never once depending on a gimmick like the weird voice he used in the Police Academy movies and, somehow, never seeming out of place in a clown costume. He’s got great comedic timing and suits the part well. Throw in an appearance from an uncredited Robin Williams and cameos from LaWanda Page, Joel Murray and even an uncredited Milton Berle and it’s easy to see how the cast really make this work.


    Mill Creek Entertainment brings Shakes The Clown to Blu-ray in an MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc. Despite the fact that this uses an older encoding technology, the transfer is pretty good. There are some minor compression artifacts and there probably could have been more fine detail here than we get but the good definitely outweighs the bad. Color reproduction is excellent, black levels are solid and skin tones look just fine. There are some spots that look a little noisier than others but by and large film grain appears naturally here and there’s very little in the way of print damage to note, the image is very clean.

    The only audio option on the disc is a LPCM 2.0 Stereo track, there are no alternate language options though English subtitles are offered. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and the levels are well balanced. This isn’t a fancy track but it suits the movie just fine and it sounds quite good. The score sounds decent here as well, as do the folley effects used throughout the picture (most of which are clown related, obviously). Again, a big step up from what fans of the film have had to deal with in the past.

    The only extra on the disc, aside from menus and chapter selection, is a commentary track featuring Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, and Tom Kenny. Goldthwait has the most to say here, not surprising given how involved he was with the film, and he lets us in on where some of the ideas for the script came from, casting the film, the locations, the makeup and more. Brown and Kenny express their thoughts on their characters and offer up some specific recollections of shooting various set pieces as well as their thoughts on the film as it all plays out in front of them. Also worth noting is that Mill Creek has packaged this release with a slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Shakes The Clown is comedic, but it is very darkly comedic and it won’t be to all tastes. It’s easy to see why this flopped at the box office, but it’s also easy to see why it’s maintained a cult following over the years. Goldthwait is great in the lead, as he is behind the camera, and there’s a strong supporting cast here too. As to the Blu-ray release, Mill Creek’s offering isn’t perfect but it’s definitely a nice step up from the old DVD release – recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!