DVD Review: ‘See You in Valhalla’

‘See You in Valhalla’ is not a funny movie. It doesn’t have any big chuckles or real jokes. If it has to be pigeonholed into a genre I would say that its something of a dark dramedy. While it isn’t funny it also does not go full serious. There is satire and caricature, but no straight up comedy. While this in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is a symptom of a larger issue with the film: it is trite and bland.

The film follows Johana Burwood (Sarah Hyland) as she is forced to return home after the unexpected and bizarre death of her brother. Her homecoming forces her to deal with her quirky family and friends, as well as her past. There is a lot of history and tension between the members of Johana’s family, which often results in straight up fights and feuds. Just when it seems like things could not get worse, a novel idea of how to memorialize her deceased brother sets things on a new path for the family.

All things said this is a decent movie. It is not great, but it is also not bad. A lot of the main plot points have been done before in other places. There is not a lot new in ‘Valhalla’, however because it plays it safe it mostly works. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I guess.

At times the plot wears its understanding of how families should be on its sleeve. This is a movie about broken families that relies a bit too hard on one particular normative assumption of what such a family should look like and then it portrays it as if it is a curiosity or abnormality when it is probably much more normal than many wish to admit. Perfect families do not exist (though some might argue that theirs is pretty close). The characters and their problems in the film are pretty common in today’s society and the plot pays more attention to the problem’s existence than the way that the characters deal with them so after awhile it becomes difficult to see what is original or unique about the story.

By the time the credits roll, it is hard to see ‘See You in Valhalla’ as anything but a frustrating film that seems to have a lot more lurking under the surface. It never really delivers. Do you like these people? Should you hate them? Why even care? ‘Valhalla’ tells a story, but its one you’ve probably seen before and it doesn’t even seem to try to distinguish itself.

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