I wasn’t planning on reviewing this, especially in English, since it’s a Norwegian children’s film, but it is also a sequel to a fantastic film more people should see, so here we are.
Solan & Ludvig – Christmas in Flåklypa is a sequel to the great beloved Flåklypa Grand Prix (1975), which continues to find new audiences almost forty years after its release. Of course I love it too – it’s practically a citizen test. And no, it is not beloved due to nostalgia goggles or parents indoctrinating their children. It is genuinely funny, well-made, well-paced and with great voice-acting. A story that is fun for the whole family.
The film is in beautiful stop-motion, and the story is about the inventor/bicycle repair-man Reodor Felgen and his two live-in buddies, the bird Solan and the hedgehog Ludvig. One is a bossy, but fun optimist, the other his complete opposite despite his prickly exterior. They live on the top of the mountain overlooking the tiny village of Flåklypa. One day while watching the news, the gang sees an old apprentice of Reodor’s, now a famous Formula 1 racing driver. They discover that he owes his success to one of Reodor’s inventions. So, when the Grand Prix comes to town, Solan decides they have to enter to show him up. Apart from a slightly old-Disney-racist oil Sheik who decides to finance them, the film is hilarious, with lots of quick humour and amazing action-sequences. These characters, perhaps especially the cute, pessimistic Ludvig, are household names in Norway. You can not get away from them, and I don’t want to.
The film has been celebrated for decades, and for many it’s tradition to watch it around Christmas. The film does not have anything to do with the holiday, so I never understood this particular aspect. But the sequel now “fixes” that by setting the story firmly in Christmas territory. Could anything live up to the beloved classic? It’s like waiting forty years to release a sequel to The Lion King – if Disney was a tiny studio and not [insert corporate sellout joke here]. But the film has been a massive success here, with dice rolls of 5 and 6 raining down on it. I finally saw it with the whole family last weekend.
The very first thing that sticks out is the new character and set design. The stop-motion is still beautiful, but it has a clear modern aesthetic, and the characters look slightly more plastic toy-ish. I got used to them very quickly, however, so this doesn’t distract much. The other big change was the look of the town and Reodor’s house. In the original, the setting itself set my imagination running wild. It’s probably why I love the idea of walking along narrows paths up in the mountains to this day. In the sequel, we never really see the height of the mountain, though it’s clear Reodor does live above the town. Again, this will only annoy old fans, and even then you’ll forget it about five minutes in.
It is the characters and story that make the film, and it is almost perfect. The film introduces new characters who all fit nicely into stereotypes of Norwegians in tiny towns. The grumpy old man, the purple-haired old lady who runs the shop and the poor postman who has to push through all kinds of weather. The main “villain” if he can be called that, the editor of the local paper, is a brilliant satire of newspaper culture. The plot centers around the paper constantly promising snow for Christmas on its front page, and the editor desperate not to look a fool. Reodor accepts a challenge to create a snow-machine so that the editor will be proven right. With a crazy press-bot, a turbo-charged sled, accidental invisibility, and great Christmas cheer, the film manages to be both what we love about Flåklypa and something new.
I was also surprised by now many jokes are just for the adults. You had lots of them in the original as well, but here it feels like almost every other line flew over the kids’ heads. There is some great satire in this film. The press-bot, another invention of Reodor’s, had me in stitches. Some of them were just tiny throw away lines that had me giggling for minutes. Like when Ludvig is accidentally snatched up by the racing sled, and Solan yells at him to tell him which way, left or right? Ludvig replies with a terrified “I don’t vote!”
But it isn’t just about Norwegian stereotypes or in-jokes about our press culture. I really think it works as a fun for the family in any culture. The characters are cute, and their personalities are easily identifiable. Solan is the wise-cracking funny guy, while Ludvig is the hypochondriac, a neurotic, yet kind pessimist. Reodor himself is the hard-working repairman with a twinkle in his eye, who just has to put up with their antics. The film catches that right blend of humour, kindness, and excitement! The stop-motion is still excellent at capturing movement and action-sequences. Instead of Formula 1 cars, we get a turbo-sled and a runaway giant snowball. I just love watching these characters try and get themselves out of trouble.
I definitely think Solan & Ludvig – Christmas in Flåklypa is on my Christmas film list from now on. Dice roll: 5, hell maybe even a 6, because I don’t think you could make a better sequel to such a classic film.