You see “Valhalla” in the title, you meet a young meth addict who dies “the Viking way.” There’s a spacey/druggie personal trainer moved to learn archery who hallucinates an order to “build an ark.” So unless you’re movie-math illiterate, you know where the movie’s going, pretty much from the get go.
So it’s a tribute to Steve Howey (above, far right) of Showtime’s “Shameless” that The Tarnol Brothers’ “See You in Valhalla” still manages a decent payoff. A scrappy/sappy dramedy about siblings who return, after their “Viking” brother’s death to the home they once fled, it covers over-familiar ground without much in the line of novelty.
A younger sister (Sarah Hyland of “Modern Family”) puts down the bottle long enough to leave the big city, accompanied by a not-her-boyfriend (Alex Frost) who invites himself along.
Barry (Bret Harrison) is the gay sibling who became a psychologist. Don (Michael Weston) is “the responsible one,” father of an insufferable Young Republican teenager (Odeya Rush). Don may be the one angriest at their once-absentee/now living with a hippy “nurse” (trippy Emma Bell) father (Conor O’Farrell).
And then there’s Barry’s beau, the Hawaiian stoner Makewi, played with a disconnected affability by Howey. He’s not the glue that holds this disjointed cliche of a comedy together, not the character who drags everybody to the bar so Jo (Hyland) can run into the ex-boyfriend (Beau Mirchoff) who once got her pregnant, not the one who confronts siblings’ passive father (too passively played), not the one with the most “issues.”
“So, what do you do for a living?” he’s asked.
“I live life.”
So, too, did the dead brother, named “Maxwell” but who took on the name “Magnus” after going through some sort of Viking-inspired rehab. Magnus died a glorious death, confronting the meth dealer whose wares killed his girlfriend. Magnus left behind writing, and an example.
“Face dragons head on,” he counseled. “This is the Viking way. Never give up.”
Makewi, goofball that he is, is the only one who hears him. Thank Odin for that, because otherwise, “Valhalla” wouldn’t be worth a visit, much less a life sentence.
Cast: Sarah Hyland, Steve Howey, Michael Weston, Bret Harrison, Odeya Rush, Jake McDorman, Beau Mirchoff, Conor O’Farrell
Credits: Directed by Jarret Tarnol, written by Brent Tarnol. An ARC Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:21