Norway can always be relied on to deliver a dose of dumb fun, with cool effects, when it comes to their mythic mountain monsters — trolls.
The worst thing you can say about the new Roar Uthaug (“The Wave,” “Tomb Raider”) thriller “Troll” is that “It’s no ‘Trollhunter.'” It lacks the wit and the mismatch peril of André Øvredal’s classic rock-bodied creature feature of 2010. So “dumb,” sure. “Fun?” Not so much.
But it’s got a couple of laughs and a little pathos and a lot of stuff blowing up by or being fired at the title character, who throws rocks and cars and such back. “Dumb fun?” Close. But no.
Something has happened in the middle of a mountain being tunneled through despite the protests of angry environmentalists. One dynamite charge too many caused the side of it to collapse, with workers buried and folks on the surface fleeing tumbling boulders.
There’s a big hole left behind, and “impressions” on the grey rock and lichen covered landscape.
“Those look like…footprints” (in Norwegian with subtitles, or dubbed into English).
That’s why the government’s fetched paleo-biologist Nora Tideman, played by Ine Marie Wilman, who starred in the Norwegian bio pic about legendary figure skater Sonia Henie a few years back. “The dinosaur lady” has just dug up something interesting down-country, when she’s plucked and parked in a crowded cabinet meeting about the crisis this “accident” has caused.
She’s the one who makes them slow-down the cell-phone video of the explosion, which was accompanied by an animalistic roar.
“What the hell is that?”
It’s standing on two legs. It’s bald, with a big nose. And everything about it screams “That’s a rock-man who walks!”
All the snide dismissals and “methane gas due to global warming” wisecracks, which the male wags in the cabinet figure is an excuse to crack jokes — “I guess we’d better call Greta (Thunberg) then!” — are slapped down.
No, nobody wants to use the word “Troll” any more than Elon Musk. But when Nora fetches her aged, crackpot father (Gard B.Eidsvold, the funniest thing in this), he isn’t shy.
Tobias taught Nora how to climb The Troll Peaks, who insisted “There’s some truth to every fairy tale” and “You have to believe in something to see it,” is sure it’s a troll, maybe one “looking for a gyger. “
“An ogress,” aka “a lady troll.”
Cabinet ministers can scoff all they want, but the beasts that disappeared thanks to “the Christianization of Norway” over a thousand years before, according to legend, may be coming back.
What to do, what to do? Aside from air strikes, cannon fire and anti-tank rockets, I mean?
I have to say, there’s not a lot of invention to the “rules” of trolls and the “how to stop a troll” problem solving here.
Sjøgård Pettersen plays a straight arrow military man who strikes one pose — hand on the helmet strapped to his waist, the other hand on the automatic rifle trigger. Kim Falck plays the prime minister’s trusted aide, a kind-of-amusing foil for Nora and Captain Kris, who are never less than serious about all of this.
The amusing old man rants and aide Andreas’ fish-out-of-water reaction to anti-troll combat are the only real light touches here, and remind us that while the colorfully-named Roar Uthaug managed a sober ticking clock tsunami thriller, “The Wave,” with classic disaster movie pathos, he pretty much botched his “Tomb Raider” reboot for having too thin a sense of humor or feel for what was obviously meant to be lighter material.
The best joke here might be using Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” music under the closing credits.
The effects are solid (ahem) and impressive enough, but you can say that about most any B-movie creature feature these days.
Funnier would have made “Troll” more fun. Once you’ve established that “fairy tales have some truth to them,” you’ve earned permission for characters to both embrace the grim realities of the situation, and mock it.
Most versions of “King Kong” and “Godzilla” get this. Why not these trollhunters?
You take this monster mash too too seriously, and next thing you know, Kyrie Irving’s tweeting about it and declaring that’s a new linchpin of his belief system.
Cast: Ine Marie Wilman, Kim Falck, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen and Gard B. Eidsvold
Credits: Directed by Roar Uthaug, scripted by Espen Aukan. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:41