Shakes (Bobcat Goldthwaite) is an alcoholic who lives in Palookaville. He drinks morning, noon and night, which makes holding down a career all the more difficult. Shakes has a ditzy blonde girlfriend with a speech impediment that loves him but can’t comprehend what drives him to the bottle so frequently.
His friends drink hard too – most evenings seem to be spent at the same bar, talking the same smack about colleagues and lamenting the state of the industry.
When Shakes is passed over for a plumb job he plunges even further into a non-stop drinking binge that even his mates and girl can’t drag him back from. Even the threat of getting the sack from his longtime employer can’t keep Shakes from the edge of the abyss.
Then just when Shakes’ descent into hell seems it can’t get any worse, he is framed for murder, and a dark and depressing film gets darker and even harder to extract joy from.
I might mention at this point that Shakes is indeed a clown as the title says, not in as much as he is a dope or acts clownishly, but an honest to goodness, red nose, makeup and big shoes clown. The bar he and others frequent is a clown bar, and the plumb job a TV clown job.
Apparently the word ‘clown’ in front of all these things makes this blackly funny.
The only element that I found humour in is the fact that the natural enemy of the clown is not maturity, but the mime, and Robin Williams hams it up good and proper in his role as a mime-coach.
Despite this I can totally see how this could be a cult classic. It is hard going, unique and different to anything that you could ever hope to see, with a bunch of oddball character actors and young comedians including Adam Sandler and Kathy Griffin in the cast.
But ultimately while Shakes is ambitious and strikingly unique, the thought that it is a bold work of genius is a delusion. This Shakes is no great shakes, and most certainly not Shake-speare.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. Sure if you want to see something completely different track this down. Just don’t expect much more than a flawed experiment from a bygone era.