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  Valhalla Party with the Gods
Year: 1986
Director: Peter Madsen, Jeffrey J. Varab
Stars: Dick Kaysø, Preben Kristensen, Laura Bro, Marie Ingerslev, Nis Bank-Mikkelsen, Benny Hansen, Olaf Nielsen, Thomas Eje, Claus Ryskaer, Kirsten Rolffes, Jesper Klein, Susse Wold, Percy Edwards
Genre: Animated, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: One dark and stormy night a peasant family receive an unexpected visit from the Norse gods, Thor (voiced by Dick Kaysø) and Loki (Preben Kristensen). Seeing their mortal hosts haven't any food to offer, Thor generously roasts the goats that draw his magical chariot. However he warns the family, while they may eat their fill they must not chew any bones. The next morning when Thor magically brings his goats back to life he finds one of them has a broken leg. Ever the prankster, Loki tricked eldest son Tjalfe (Marie Ingerslev) into gnawing a bone. An enraged Thor insists Tjalfe work off the debt as his servant for awhile. Which suits Tjalfe fine since he is excited at the thought of sharing adventures on Asgard, the realm of the gods. Tjalfe's plucky kid sister Roskva (Laura Bro) sneaks along too but the siblings quickly get fed up cleaning Thor's house all day and helping his wife Sif (Susse Wold) take care of their babies. More trouble arrives when Loki brings home a rowdy troll child named Quark (Thomas Eje) having made a wager with its father he could teach it some manners. Although Roskva takes a shine to Quark, the little troll makes mischief everywhere he goes and tries to bite everything he sees. Eventually Thor leads the gang down to Jotunheim, the realm of the giants, to confront the mysterious and shifty Utgardloki (Nils Bank-Mikkelsen). He agrees to take Quark back provided the heroes can win a series of challenges where nothing is as it seems.

This enchanting and lavish Danish animated feature is based on a popular comic book series written and drawn by co-director Peter Madsen. At the time Valhalla was the most expensive Danish production ever made and sadly proved a costly flop on its initial theatrical release. Happily it is now widely ranked among the greatest animated films of all time. At a time in the mid-Eighties when mainstream animation was all about cutting costs and catering to the lowest common denominator, the creative team behind Valhalla boldly pulled out all the stops. Co-director Jeffrey J. Varab was a seasoned Disney animator who trained under one of Disney's famous 'nine old men': Eric Larson. Although Varab abandoned directing duties to Madsen following a dispute with the studio his artistry is apparent from the range of different animation styles the film employs that keep things visually arresting. Both the character animation and detailed backgrounds match the best of Disney from this era.

Very much in the vein of classic Disney the story is rather slight and structured around a string of colourful set-pieces for the animators to sink their creative teeth into. However, Madsen still crafts a nuanced and multidimensional story that skips from high adventure to slapstick comedy and emotional moments centred on charming and well-drawn characters. The plot takes a while to get going yet there is always something interesting going on with the characters. Madsen's story reworks actual fables from Norse mythology. While aimed at children, the film does not sugar-coat the Norse gods. Thor and Loki come across as flawed if likable antiheroes. Needless to say the film's portrayal of the thunder god as a hot-tempered braggart and doofus is rather more accurate than any Marvel movie. In Valhalla the gods are capricious, self-serving entities, largely indifferent to the plight of human beings. The central trio of youngsters are easily the most caring and likable characters in the story. In particular plucky little Roskva who consistently disproves big brother Tjalfe's snotty dismissal of her as “just a girl.” If the story has a message it might be that the mortals humanize the gods. Tjalfe's decency and selfless devotion gradually soften Thor into a more considerate paternal figure while Roskva slowly moulds Quark into a more humane person even if he never entirely sheds his bestial nature. Alongside an evocative sound mix the film features an outstanding score. It was the last from celebrated British composer Ron Goodwin and encapsulates the grandeur of this heady fantasy.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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