Shakes the Clown

Lava Lamp
Our rating: one lava lamp.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

"My name is Shakes, and I'm an alcoholic."
Here's a situation we've all been in: You want to rent a movie about alcoholic clowns. But when it comes to alcoholic clown movies, how can you tell the good ones from the bad ones? What is the yardstick by which we judge alcoholic clown movies? Luckily we have an answer for you. According to the Boston Globe, Shakes the Clown is "the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies." Well there you go! Rent this movie! What more do you need to know?

What you need to know is that there's a moment in this film when Stenchy the Clown slams his head down into the bar and cries, "Who made this planet?!" Our immediate response was to yell "Goldthwait! Bob Goldthwait!" in the hopes that Stenchy might then do something amusing, like beat the hell out of Goldthwait's character, Shakes. He certainly deserves something of that sort for writing and directing Shakes the Clown.

The movie starts, naturally, with Goldthwait throwing up. Actually, it starts with a dog eating pizza, but the vomit scene is mere seconds after that. Funny stuff, huh? Yeah, we thought so too. The general thrust of the picture is that Shakes is an alcoholic and, despite the fact that he's a pretty good clown, the booze affects his work. He's passed up for host of the local kids' tv show, much to the disappointment of his pals Stenchy (Blake Clark) and Dink (Adam Sandler -- yes, that Adam Sandler), both clowns who expected to be included in the show when Shakes got the job.

Sandler (left) as Dink,
and Brown as Judy.
The clown who does get the hosting job is Binky (Tom Kenny), a self-proclaimed jerk who doesn't get much respect from the other clowns. With his lackeys, Boots and HoHo, Binky not only takes Shakes' job, but also frames Shakes for the murder of the local clown talent agent, Owen Cheese (Paul Dooley). So Shakes' job is this: clear his name, kick the hooch habit, and find true love with Judy (Julie Brown), a waitress at the clown bar named the Twisted Balloon. Gee, so far this sounds like a Tolkien novel.

If you're one of those people who is scared of clowns to begin with, Shakes won't do anything to convince you otherwise. In fact, if you generally appreciate clowns, this movie may change your mind. The clowns presented here are some of the scariest people we've seen in a long time. The comments from the barflies at the Twisted Balloon made us squirm uncomfortably in our seats. For most of the film, Shakes himself is a frightening apparition with a beer-soaked wig and drool-stained makeup. It's not a pretty picture.

One of the only things we liked about Shakes the Clown is its depiction of the different castes of clown society. Whether these castes exist or not, we don't know, but they're darn funny to think about. Mimes, of course, form the lowest class of clown, at least in the eyes of the "party clowns" like Shakes. Then there are the horrific rodeo clowns, who terrorize the party clowns and brag of being kicked in the head by bulls. We really wish Goldthwait had done a little more with this idea than simply mime-bash, but it did make us smile when he thrust a cardboard container over a mime's head and said, "Get outta this box!"

Aaaaaa! Scary clown named Binky!
If the story and characters are bad, then the acting is reprehensible. Although Goldthwait is completely believable as Shakes, keep in mind that he's playing a drunken slob who can't do anything right. It's not exactly a hard role to play. Julie Brown spends the entire movie talking like Elmer Fudd, slurring her R's and L's, which is weawwy -- uh, really -- annoying. It makes you want to bweak her widdle neck. Amazingly enough, the best performance came from Adam Sandler as Dink. Dink was the only person on screen for whom we felt any affection at all.

At this point you're probably saying, "Well at least no one more 'talented' than Adam Sandler got roped into this outhouse of a movie." Oh, how wrong you'd be! Robin Williams actually appears in this mess. True, he's billed in the credits as "Marty Fromage," but he's here, playing a high-strung mime instructor. He's not just a mime, he's a mime on the edge! This sounds a lot funnier than it actually is.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this movie, after all is said and done, is that Bobcat Goldthwait has been talking about making another Shakes the Clown movie. What makes him think anyone would want to watch more of this unamusing and even repulsive schtik?

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 2/4/98

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