Never watch a movie like Men & Chicken (original Danish title: Mænd og Høns) late at night after a long day and you’ve got to get up early in the morning for a long shift at your old desk. You won’t know whether to make heads or tails of it. It’s funny in a way you’re not prepared to deal with, and it’s something you’re going to have to watch again with the ending in mind.
Yes, your idea of comedy ranges from the likes of Mel Brooks to Quentin Tarantino to Johnny Knoxville, but this is something altogether different. This is dark, subtle comedy like you’ve not seen before, a family drama combined with musings upon the literal nature of ourselves. Yes, there are comedic moments in this film, most having to do with beating others in the head with blunt objects and chronic masturbation, but that shouldn’t define the film for you.
What will define the film is its odd way of showing family and the dynamic which drives them. Two brothers – one played by an almost unrecognizable Mads Mikkelsen from Casino Royale and NBC’s “Hannibal” – who couldn’t be more at odds with each other are surprised with their father’s deathbed confession stating they were adopted. Both these brothers have tics and characteristics you will find funny, but in different ways. Gabriel (David Dencik) will be the more refined and levelheaded of the two, but he’s a timid, pathetic wreck of a man. He can’t do anything on his own and he cowers at the merest hint of confrontation.
By contrast, you’ll see his brother Elias (Mikkelsen) as the more idiotic of the two, and you will enjoy that character a whole lot more. How can you not when Elias is just as socially awkward as his brother, but in a completely opposite way? Elias seems fairly comfortable around others, especially women, but his arrogance and idiocy make him into one of those guys who tries way too hard and fails at even holding a conversation about work and personal tastes.
When the brothers meet the surviving members of their birth family, all of whom turn out to be their brothers, you’re going to notice something about their behavior. Key in on that, and hold it in your head until the family secrets are revealed in the third act, ‘cause your suspicions may be well-founded. But don’t worry about it for now – just enjoy seeing how their newfound brothers work and live together. Here’s a big hint: all five brothers have the same father, a man renowned for his work in genetics and stem cell research.
You will laugh at the hilarious ways in which the brothers deal with discipline issues and chores. It’ll remind you of Lord of the Flies a little bit, in that the three brothers have been self-governed for a while (read: they beat each other senseless with various implements and fists when someone messes up) and it won’t make a lick of sense without you accepting that they’re just… not… built the same way most humans are. The relentless attacks and beatings speak of poor education and a lack of knowing what else to do in any given circumstance.
I mean, the title says it all, right? Men & Chicken. It may be a simple title and the film itself works on the surface level, but look further and you’ll find a definite nature vs. nurture (heavy on the “nature,” though) theme running rife through everything, including those peripheral to the brothers. More often than not, you’ll probably say “What the hell is going on here?” several times. However, should you see the film to the very end, there is a quite rational-to-the-movie’s-conceit (but totally irrational by regular, civil standards) explanation for how you just sat through 100 minutes of five men running around like chickens with their heads cut off.