Someday in the hopefully distant future, maybe Shakes the Clown will indeed live up to its billing as the "Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies." On the surface, it's a mess. Alleged "auteur" Bob Goldthwait has crafted (if that's the right word) a disparate mess of a film that, if it needs to be categorized, could be called a black comedy. Shakes is a party clown for hire by day and a serious drinker the rest of the time, beating up on mimes whenever he comes across them. Goldthwait gathered his fellow second-tier comics, including Julie Brown, Blake Clark, a then lesser-known Adam Sandler, and Kathy Griffin, and dragged them along for the ride. There is absolutely no redeeming value in any of the characters; the plot, such as it is, is trying to be a thorough satire and goes so far to that end that it completely loses its ground in reality, and the jokes are few and far between. Framed for murder (yes, there's a murder plot involved), Shakes tries to take refuge by disguising himself as a mime, and that one scene is the only positive one in the film, as it features Robin Williams, billed thankfully with a pseudonym, as the teacher of the class Shakes infiltrates. All of this adds up to one huge disaster, but here's the rub. It's so bad, it actually has to be seen to be believed. Whatever else can be said about the film, and there is still plenty that could be said, Goldthwait has meticulously created an entire clown and mime universe that, in the hands of perhaps a more experienced director, could have been somewhat funny. Whatever forces of ego motivated him to do it all himself should have been suppressed before it got this far.
by Dan Friedman review