Stop me if you’ve heard this one before—an estranged family is reunited through tragedy and after 90 minutes at each other’s throats they learn to love one another, warts and all. Such is the familiar case with See You in Valhalla, a by-the-numbers family "dramedy" with a few meager surprises and even less personality. Previously, filmmakerbrothers Jarrett and Brent Tarnol have crafted two really fun horror comedies: April Apocalypse and Barrio Tales. While it’s a welcome departure from their previous work, Valhalla fizzles out quickly and fails to make a real emotional impact. It’s material we’ve seen before and the few oddball stamps feel painfully forced. It’s not even good for a cry, dammit. At least these family dramas are usually good for a cry!
After misunderstood meth-dealer-addict Magnus Burwood (who fancied himself a Viking) commits suicide, his brothers and little sister convene on their childhood home to pay their respects. Modern Family star Sarah Hyland is Johana, the focal character and the one whose life is shook the most by returning to her hometown and having to face the things she’s left behind. Also in the mix are her brothers Don (the amazing young character actor Michael Weston) and Barry (Bret Harrison), who brings along with him his lover Makewi (Steve Howey), a bulking Hawaiian hunk who tackles much of the film’s comic relief duties. I haven’t seen any of Steve Howey’s previous acting work (one of the stars of Shameless), but he makes Valhalla tolerable. That’s the best that can be said about the film, it’s tolerable.
The siblings descend on their old stomping grounds, reconvene, fight, argue, confess, rinse, repeat, and then finally come together in the end to realize how much they love each other. There’s even a speech about the ol’ family bond and how it’s unshakeable even in the darkest of times. They gradually realize how they’re all essentially screwed up and embrace that shared sense of abnormality.
The characters here are dragged straight of the family drama dugout: Don is the workaholic businessman who’s always on his phone and Barry is the homosexual middle child who thinks his family resents him because of his sexuality. Johana is a weird character, one who is an artist, but rolls her eyes whenever her new age father says something spiritual. None of these characters are particularly enjoyable to watch on screen and each fail to really make an emotional impact on the audience. The whole cast does their best with what’s given to them. Hyland does a great job as the lead and if only the material was richer, this would stand as a watershed moment for her career.
There are some interesting paths the film chooses to go down, such as the Viking angle. It’s never fully explored, however, so when the climax builds to a very Viking-heavy moment, there’s no sense of satisfaction. Which is the ultimate sensation at the of this film: dissatisfaction. See You in Valhalla is one to skip, folks.
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