Shakes the Clown, by Albert W. Vogt III

Today is Good Friday. It is a day that we remember the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for each of us at His Crucifixion. He died for our sins so that we might have new life. In such an act, there is a dying to self that we are called to emulate. Jesus had to do it, and it speaks to the Divine in him that we are also invited into sharing. That He could die at all reveals His humanity. And therein lies the mystery. Jesus was not some half-and-half demigod, like a Greek hero plucked from mythology. He was fully the Son of God, and fully one of us. Had he been all God, He would not have endured His trial. Had He been solely human, He would not have been able to do so. It is in this dying to self that sometimes trips me up, and it is a source of constant prayer and mental anguish. Though the comparison is ridiculous, it is that decision to make this sacrifice that inspires me to write some of the reviews that I do. For example, I do not wish to talk about Shakes the Clown (1991), no more than did the living and breathing side of Jesus want to get nailed to the Cross, but here you go anyway.

We get our first look at the title character (Bobcat Goldthwait) in Shakes the Clown sprawled out in his underwear, passed out drunk from the night before in the bathroom of somebody I believe is suppose to be a prostitute. That lady of the night, by the way, is played by Florence Henderson. If that name does not jog the old noodle, she was the mom for the 1970s classic sitcom The Brady Bunch. There, now your childhood is ruined. Shakes is awakened from his stupor by the woman’s son, who ends up urinating on Shakes’ head. The resigned sighs started there, and did not end until the credits began rolling. Thankfully, it clocks in at barely an hour and twenty minutes, so at least the suffering did not last long. Because this was done in 1991, it was also a time when clowns were still not seen as being the monsters they have become in popular culture. Sure, you can blame John Wayne Gacy or Stephen King’s It for their plunge in popularity. I think Shakes the Clown deserves at least some of the blame. Look, I am kind of talking around the plot here because actually nothing of note happens in the movie, unless you enjoy watching people struggle with alcoholism. Shakes is part of a group of clowns that seemingly never get out of their costumes and face paint, except for him for no apparent reason. Oh, and that woman we see him with in the opening scene is not his girlfriend. His actual significant other is a waitress at his frequent watering hole, an expert bowler with a speech impediment named Judy (Julie Brown). These characteristics appear completely random until she saves the day at the end with her bowling skills. But I guess I am getting ahead of myself. Two of Shakes’ performer friends, Stenchy the Clown (Blake Clark) and Dink the Clown (Adam Sandler), attempt to get Shakes to sober up as his life spirals out of control. After drinking and blacking out at a birthday party they were playing, Stenchy and Dink bring Shakes back to the bar. I mean, where else? You could tell that this movie had a low budget because it was one of roughly five settings in the whole film. Shakes arrives there, unconscious, in time for his mentor and agent Owen Cheese (Paul Dooley) to be murdered by Binky the Clown (Tom Kenny), Shakes’ rival. By the way, this occurs after Cheese walks in on Binky snorting cocaine. Fan-freaking-tastic. Because there is an incapacitated patsy nearby, Binky frames Shakes for the murder. Shakes comes to just as the police show up, the murder weapon in his hand. But because clowns are seemingly magical in this film, he is able to elude custody, aided by Judy. I suppose I should have mentioned that after the events of the beginning of the film she no longer trusts him, but without any further preamble she helps him when he is wanted for murder. But her aid comes to the attention of Binky, who then decides to kidnap her. To echo the words of Rick James on Chappelle’s Show, “Cocaine is a helluva drug.” Binky’s next drug addled decision is to put her on his television show and throw real knives at her. Inevitably, this leads Shakes and company to the studio where they are able to rescue Judy and clear his name. In the resulting clown tussle, Judy is uses her bowling skills to knock out Binky.

Here are some things I forgot to mention about Shakes the Clown: there is a whole town seemingly filled with clowns, and Robin Williams is in it. He plays a mime instructor, but there is a violent feud between mimes and clowns because the former do “art.” What a travesty. It doubles down on this ridiculousness by having the clowns beat up the mimes whenever they encounter each other. Anyway, there, I have said enough. There is no reason to see this movie.


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