I’ve referenced the 1987 shitshow Mio In the Land of Faraway a few times on this blog. I can’t stress enough how bad it is. It’s awful. However, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the living shit out of the movie (I hesitate to call it a film). Some may call it a guilty pleasure. Some days, it’s way more guilt than it is pleasure. Today, though, it’s pleasure. Oh, Mio, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
The music is melodramatic
Ever wonder if music can try to over-emote? Yup, it’s possible. We’re not talking about the subtle machinations of Clint Mansell here trying to manipulate our feelings. That shit’s for chumps. Benny Andersson and Anders Eljas, I’m looking at the two of you. The both of you did everything in your power to make sure that this score was as big and bold as you could. It works so well to make things even funnier. You know what this music becomes? It’s like the hair of a drag queen: overstyled and reaching for the sky. And it is amazing.
It’s Swedish. Sort of.
For a movie about a kid in the heart of Stockholm, it’s got some pretty strong British accents. I guess that lends itself to the Dickensian conventions of the plot. All it’s missing is Bosse/Mio (Nicholas Pickard) beseeching his evil Aunt Edna with, “Please, I want some more!” Really, though, the movie is set in Sweden for part of the action, and the kids acting in the movie have trouble with the names. At one point, poor Pickard tries to pronounce his character’s full name and he visibly stumbles. I feel for the kid. He tried. It’s also funny as hell to watch a story where the character trips over extra syllables in his name. I think his rechristening as Mio is penance for his full name.
The plot is pitch black for a kids’ movie
Poor Bosse’s mother died when he was in his infancy, and he was shipped off to an orphanage because his deadbeat dad was nowhere to be found. He was then adopted by a complete harpy named Aunt Edna, who really wanted a girl but was forced to take in a boy because the orphanage was fresh out of female children. The kid watches his best friend play with his own father longingly, then over the course of a few hours, gets bullied, gets berated by his abusive guardian, then runs away from home, where he’s magically transported to a land where he’s the long-lost son of the king (who looks like his best friend’s dad), has a great best friend (that looks just like his bestie), gets to ride a magical horse, and does battle against an evil knight that likes to kidnap children and turn them into birds.
If this is not a metaphor for the afterlife of a tortured child, I don’t know what is. Considering that everyone he encounters repeats him or herself in the Land of Faraway, it’s pretty obvious that Bosse/Mio is making all of this up. It’s way too convenient, and it made me wonder if, after the credits rolled, we wouldn’t see a dead body lying in the streets of Stockholm. It’s like The Little Match Girl, only with a Swedish male orphan. It’s enough to make me want to cry if it wasn’t so fucking ridiculous.
|Happy days are here again.
The postcard Bosse mails out is not in English, yet he’s able to read it without a problem for those of us in the cheap seats (or, as my French friend would say, “Stupid Americans!”). So here’s the magic question: how in the hell does that postcard get from Stockholm to a land in a galaxy far, far away before Bosse even leaves in the night? I mean, shit, I knew members of the postal service worked hard, but DAMN.
OH MY GOD THIS IS THE BEST! Considering that it looks like the beard itself was made out of pom-poms, it’s amazing. Then factor in that a giant, disembodied head flies over fucking Stockholm in the dead of night, up into the stratosphere and beyond, and it’s pretty incredible. I mean, why is no one stopping and pointing at this? And why do the planets glow this radioactive color as they fly by? How is Bosse able to breathe? When I first saw this, I was a kid and I openly questioned this. Seriously, how the fuck was he able to breathe? We had studied space and I knew that you needed a helmet for that. As a child, I thought it was strange. As an adult, it’s just as mystifying. The first time I showed my ex-husband this movie, his voice got really high and he squeaked out, “WHAT?!” It’s just… special. Very, very special.
Yeah, I touched on this earlier, but how fucking convenient that this kid winds up with the dad he always wanted, an exact replica of his best friend, clean clothes, continual access to food, and a pony. Emphasis on the pony. Can’t fault him there. Most days, I’d like to be taken away to a magical land where someone gives me pristine white clothes, validation and my own horse.
Everyone Loves Mio
Aside from having repeated mono- and disyllabic names (Nonno, Jum-Jum, Kato, etc.), everyone in this world knows exactly who Mio is. It’s like Cheers, but you’re missing the alcohol. Everyone knows that this kid is here to save the world. No pressure though, kid. None at all.
The Exposition Well
Nothing says lazy storytelling like a well that fucking talks and fills you in on the plot points you’re missing. It’s as though the writers said, “Yeah, fuck it. I don’t really feel like bringing someone else in to explain this. Everyone cool with a talking well? No objections. Good.”
Whispering Kato’s name
Philosophical question: when someone whispers my name, does the sky turn black and the wind blow? Because that would be awesome. I want that power. Actually, come to think of it, the lightning flashing at Kato’s name reminded me quite a bit of the horses whinying over Frau Blücher’s name in Young Frankenstein. I wonder if I yell, “Kato!” if I can conjure rain…
The jump over the bridge
This is so over-the-top, batshit insane. How does a horse jump that huge space? Is it bionic? Then there’s the music (see item one on this list). Aside from the fact that everything is so obviously green screened, it’s a good 30 seconds of melodrama that simply didn’t need to be in the movie. And it’s great.
WAIT WAIT DON’T TELL ME
If Pickard said, “Wait, don’t tell me – I already know!” one more time, I swear to Christ I was going to lose it. After repeat viewings, though, it does get better. Have to admit, this kid gave it his all. He’s really trying hard to act. The attempts at emotion are both hilarious AND valiant.
I’ve brought this up a few times, but it really deserves to be its own entry. I mean, Pickard really lays it on thick. Christian Bale is not much better. Nor is Timothy Bottoms, or even Christopher Lee for that matter. Yes, Lee is in this. Everyone slums it from time to time, and this is no exception. He tries to be deliciously evil and winds up just coming off as hammy. For Christopher Fucking Lee, that’s an artform. It’s so bad. There is nothing that can save it. It’s far easier to just laugh at the acting rather than try to take it seriously; otherwise, you’d just cry.
The implosion of the castle
It’s like all the lightning from Highlander combined and had an orgy on this structure. It’s AMAZINGLY BAD. It’s the perfect climax to a completely anticlimatic movie.
This film has to be seen to be believed. It’s so batshit insane that I’d recommend that it get committed before it hurts itself, but it’s really quite harmless.