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The 100-Year-Old Man

Robert Gustafsson and Alan Ford in "The 100-Year-Old Man" 

It may have been Swedish humorist Ingmar “Shecky” Bergman who first said, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.”

Allan, the title character in the Nordic farce “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared,” has had a century of misadventures to come to the conclusion that “[stuff] happens.” His father was lynched by Bolsheviks. His mother died of starvation. He was sterilized by a Nazi scientist. He invented the atomic bomb. He was sent to the Gulag by Josef Stalin. And when his beloved cat was killed by a fox, that was the saddest day of all.

Allan (Robert Gustafsson) has dabbled with dynamite since the day in 1923 when he learned of his father’s death. In flashbacks, we learn that Allan’s expertise with explosives earned him a seat beside leaders such as Gen. Francisco Franco of Spain and U.S. President Harry S. Truman. But blowing up the hen house in his own backyard earned the old geezer a seat in a retirement home.

On his 100th birthday, Allan sees some boys playing with firecrackers outside and he impulsively climbs out the window to join them. Soon he is on a bus to wherever his loose change will take him, with a stranger’s misplaced suitcase at his side.

At the bus stop, Allan and local hermit Julius (Iwar Wiklander) discover that the suitcase is filled with $50 million euros — and a biker gang will kill to get it back.

Be forewarned: “The 100-Year-Old Man” is edgier than its title would lead you to believe. Bad guys are bludgeoned, blown up and even crushed by an elephant, and the two duffers take a lassez-faire attitude toward disposing of them. Yet there’s a genial idiocy to their short-circumference road trip, and the old men acquire a couple of kindred outcasts: stuttering underachieving Benny (David Wiberg) and butch farm girl Gunilla (Mia Skäringer).

The present-day caper goes off the rails when it relies too heavily on coincidence and crossed paths, but the flashback timeline is as a fun as “Forrest Gump.” Along with the excellent special effects and makeup, the frisky mix of history and fantasy may explain why this is the highest grossing film in Swedish history that doesn’t involve a girl with a dragon tattoo. Like “Dragon,” it seems destined for a Hollywood remake, which is likely to be more polished but not nearly as weirdly charming.


What “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared” • Two and a half stars out of four • Run time 1:55 • Rating R • Content Language and violence • Where Plaza Frontenac

Joe Williams is the film critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.