Thursday, February 2, 2017

Film Review: TERKEL IN TROUBLE (2004) by Mike Sullivan

The worst part about the success of SOUTH PARK isn’t that it was the show that launched a million bad Eric Cartman impressions. Nor is it that, for a few years, it emboldened Trey Parker and Matt Stone to use their series as a cudgel to beat their contrarian, lib-bro-tarian values into the skulls of their fan base, it’s that the show’s perceived simplicity made hacky individuals think to themselves, “Pfft. I could do that”. If SOUTH PARK never existed, Seth MacFarlane would have remained an obscure storyboard artist known only by the hardest of hardcore animation nerds. Even better, the Danish radio serial TERKEL IN TROUBLE would have never been adapted into a poorly animated but still popular movie. In some ways this would have been a slightly less awful world. 

Written by stand-up comedian Anders Matthesen (who supplies most of the characters’ similar sounding voices in the original Danish version), TERKEL IN TROUBLE is basically how most critics perceived SOUTH PARK to be in the late-'90s, in that the film really is just pre-teens swearing, farting and killing each other. Bullied at school, ignored at home and currently receiving death threats for accidentally sitting on a spider, Terkel is a mopey, adenoidal lump who, like every other character in the film, looks like a flayed, plasticine mole and never stops being the personal doormat to the world. Along with his best friend Jason (who carries around a lead pipe simply for the purposes of foreshadowing), Terkel drives a classmate to commit suicide, numbly watches as his little sister blinds herself with forks and slips in a big puddle of piss because piss is the ultimate utmost in red-raw edginess, dude (as is Hitler cameos! And child-molestation sight gags! Somebody stop this envelope before it gets pushed too far!) There’s nothing inherently wrong with filling your comedy with unlikable characters but shouldn’t those unlikable characters be funny in some way? Because apart from the clever opening that satirizes those wannabe SE7EN-style credits sequences that were so ubiquitous in the early aughts and a song (yes, this is a musical. Thanks again, SOUTH PARK), from a criminally negligent children’s help line operator, there’s nothing particularly funny about TERKEL IN TROUBLE. The film lacks a motivating factor and specializes in the kind of bland nihilism preferred by 14-year-olds who think they’re blowing your mind that their Facebook profile picture is of themselves flipping off the camera. Very much a product of its time, TERKEL IN TROUBLE boasts a pair of rap rock numbers, gratuitous references to THE MATRIX and the kind of jittery, unappealing computer animation that wouldn’t make the grade as a video game cut-scene nowadays. In short, TERKEL IN TROUBLE isn’t the kind of movie you watch, it’s the kind of movie you grow out of.

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