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'Men & Chicken' is a darkly comic look at a family secret

'Men & Chicken' is a darkly comic look at a family secret
Elias (Mads Mikkelsen), left, and Josef (Nicolas Bro) in “Men & Chicken,” about a family secret. (Rolf Konow / Drafthouse Films)

The standard end-credits disclaimer, "No animals were harmed in the making of this film" takes on special significance in the aftermath of "Men & Chicken," the outrageously askew, darkly comic offering from versatile Danish writer-director Anders Thomas Jensen.

While it's been a decade since Jensen's previous directorial effort, the allegorical "Adam's Apples," he kept busy as an in-demand screenwriter, most notably penning the script for Susanne Bier's Oscar-winning 2010 drama, "In a Better World."

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When he does step behind the camera, Jensen's tastes lean toward twisted, pitch-black comedy (2003's "The Green Butchers," which starred chameleon character actor Mads Mikkelsen, took a wry cannibalistic cue from "Sweeney Todd"). Jensen previously earned three Oscar nominations (with producer Kim Magnusson) in the 1990s for best live-action short, winning for "Valgaften (Election Night)."

In "Men & Chicken," a pair of brothers, Gabriel (David Dencik), an academic with a delicate gag reflex, and his bullheaded, chronic masturbator sibling Elias (Mikkelsen again) find out that they come by their social awkwardness honestly.

It turns out that their biological father was a shunned scientist named Evelio who conducted genetic experiments in a seriously dilapidated sanitarium on a remote Danish island inhabited by several, equally challenged, long-lost half brothers, not to mention lots of odd-looking poultry and other assorted barnyard animals.

They subsequently discover that they share more in common than a cleft lip when suspicious Gabriel uncovers a nasty family secret. This seriously warped family portrait — an inspired thematic hybrid of Kafkaesque alienation and Farrelly brothers farce, with a healthy grafting of Tod Browning's "Freaks" — still has an organic sweetness at its core.

In Jensen's uniquely wacky world, there's a genuine affection for his offbeat characters. The slapstick outlandishness and the tender bonding manage to coexist as harmoniously as the acoustic guitar and otherworldly Theremin that are featured prominently on the soundtrack.

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'Men & Chicken'

Not rated. In Danish with English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Landmark NuArt, West Los Angeles

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