Felix Herngren’s adaptation of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared could have been excellent. The book plays out like a Swedish Forrest Gump; a sure-fire success one might think, but unfortunately the film barely sparks before falling flat on its face. A promising start is followed by a lacklustre middle and, for fans of the book, will end with pure disappointment.
The story follows an old Swedish man named Allan Karlsson played by Sweden’s funniest man (although there was no evidence of this), Robert Gustafsson (Hjälp!). Thoroughly bored of his lonely existence in Malmköping’s retirement home, Allan makes a dash from his 100th Birthday party. Fleeing to the nearest transport, he ends up on the first bus out of town, trailing behind him a suitcase full of cash that doesn’t belong to him, but instead to an incredibly rude biker for whom he was watching the case at the bus station. Allan finds himself at a disused train station and makes a new friend in Julius, a man in his 70’s who is also looking for an adventure. Over the course of the next 2 hours, Allan and Julius get chased by various members of the biker gang looking for their missing millions, whilst making some very odd friends along the way. Meanwhile, we are treated to flashbacks of Allan’s colourful life and his huge influence over some very recognisable historical figures and events from the last one hundred years.
The film certainly has moments that are very entertaining; this can’t be denied. However, these periods are not as frequent as the trailer would have you believe. There are flashes of intense silliness; real subtle instants of dark humour, but none of this seems to be developed into a real belly laugh. One particular scene whereby Allan is desperately trying to explain a simple plan to Einstein’s dim-witted brother Herbert, stands out as a highlight of the film, however these moments don’t happen nearly enough. In addition, the English narration of this Swedish film is frustrating – commit to a language! Whilst most of the narrative is in Swedish, it is somehow peppered with English narrative and narration. Perhaps they wanted the film to be more appealing to the non-Swedish audience but it becomes an annoyance instead.
The literary character of Allan Karlsson is an inspiring, unassuming hero yet this somehow has not been translated to film. His mischievous antics are never quite fully developed and instead, this interpretation of Allan, our favourite explosives expert, doesn’t produce the fireworks that were so evident in the book. The magic created in the pages of Jonas Jonasson’s story is side stepped in favour of extra screen time of Gustafsson in his heavy 100-year-old make up (although the make-up is actually pretty impressive), whereas the film may have fared better if focus had been on his vibrant story leading up to his incarceration in the retirement home. On the other hand, the film is visually rather lovely. Warm colours and a stunning backdrop to most of the ‘action’ might get you through this uninspiring adaptation.
Overall, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is not the inspirational film that it should be. If you are a fan of the book, then prepare to see some of your favourite scenes and storylines completely missing from the film, or even more upsettingly, sprinted over in record time so the importance of them are completely lost. On the other hand, take note of the more amusing moments; hopefully they will encourage you to read the book instead. Lastly, to all you Science geeks, count slowly to ten and breathe when you see Oppenheimer’s reaction to the first atomic bomb. Not cool Herngren, not cool.