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  Vicky the Viking A Viking through and through
Year: 2009
Director: Michael Bully Herbig
Stars: Jonas Hämmerle, Waldemar Kobus, Nic Romm, Christian Koch, Olaf Krätke, Mike Maas, Patrick Reichel, Jörg Moukaddam, Mercedes Jadea Diaz, Sanne Schnapp, Ankie Beilke, Gunther Kaufmann, Christoph Maria Herbst, Helmfried von Lüttichau, Maik Lohse
Genre: Comedy, Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Little Vicky (Jonas Hämmerle) is the one and only son of mighty, one-eyed Chief Halvar (Waldemar Kobus), proud ruler of the Viking village of Flack, and what he lacks in strength and stature he more than makes up for in brainpower. Vicky constantly concocts ingenious ideas and crazy contraptions that delight his adoring playmate Ylvi (Mercedes Jadea Diaz), but worries he is too different inside to ever please his pa and become a true Viking, since he would rather play than pillage and prefers to think his way out of a fight.

Determined to prove brawn is better than brain, Halvar challenges his son to a boulder moving contest that Vicky wins by improvising a tree-catapult, sending the chief into a sulk. When rival Viking warlord Sven the Terrible (Gunther Kaufmann) invades Flack and kidnaps all the other children, including Ylvi, Vicky sneaks aboard his father’s ship as they sail off to the rescue. Our heroes encounter a shipwreck belonging to the Chinese state circus, whose sole survivor is the beautiful Lee Fu (Ankie Beilke) with whom all the warriors are soon smitten, especially gentle giant Faxe (Jörg Moukaddam). It is Lee Fu who reveals the motive behind Sven’s heinous crime: only a child who has never told a lie can sound the legendary Horn of King Mutt and retrieve his long-lost treasure.

Ah, the memories come flooding back. Based on the children’s novel by Swedish author Runer Jonsson, the 1974 Japanese-German cartoon series became a much-loved teatime classic. Vicky the Viking marked a crucial step in the developing popularity of anime in that, alongside Hayao Miyazaki’s adaptation of Heidi (1974), it spawned the legendary World Masterpiece Theatre series of shows and movies that drew legions of fans across Europe. Now comes this sprightly live action remake, directed by German comedian Michael Bully Herbig who also serves as our onscreen narrator in his guise as toothsome Spanish envoy Ramon Martinez Congaz, who pops out of nowhere to enlighten or infuriate the other characters. Herbig rose to prominence in the early Nineties as writer-director and star of the German sketch comedy show “Bullyparade” and uniquely, he often invites his public to vote for which comic character he should spin off into a new movie. Often spoofing German cinematic staples his past work includes Manitou’s Shoe (2001), a raucous take on the old Karl May westerns which became on the country’s highest grossing film of all time, and the computer animated feature: Lissi and the Wild Emperor (2007), based on the aristocratic romances that made Romy Schneider a star.

Herbig and his collaborators obviously harbour a great deal of affection for the original cartoon, given this is a scrupulously faithful adaptation, right down to recreating Vicky’s trademark rub of his nose and snap of his fingers amidst shooting stars whenever he has an amazing idea. Beautifully shot by Gerhard Schirlo with lavish production values the equal of any Hollywood children’s film, the story may be very slight and episodic but conveys its family-friendly messages of kindness and generosity without growing too sickly. The broad slapstick humour is obviously aimed at very young children, but thankfully never crosses into the crass. Amusing sequences include our heroes trapped inside a submerged ship where they hold unlikely lengthy conversations underwater with subtitles (!) and the moment a band of Viking marauders confess to Vicky they never knew their fathers because, well, you know…

Perhaps most importantly, the charmingly wide-eyed Jonas Hämmerle is pitch perfect as Vicky, ably supported by Mercedes Jadea Diaz as his gap-toothed little paramour. Their tween romance is really rather sweet, innocent and not at all overstated. The supporting cast, mostly unknown to English eyes although hulking Gunther Kaufmann used to act in Rainer Werner Fassbinder movies, inhabit their roles as if they’d sprung straight from the animators’ pen. Ralf Wengenmayr supplies a rousing score and yes, it does retain the original theme song. Altogether now: “Hey, hey, Vicky! Hey, Vicky, hey…”

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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