Subtitles, traditionally speaking, are not exactly a friend to comedy. How can a joke succeed if, in the middle of the punchline, one has to take their eyes off the action to…well, to read it? It’s for just this reason that foreign-made comedies aren’t often—if ever—a big success here in the U.S. It’s hard enough to convince audiences to check out the latest cinematic masterpiece if it’s in French or Spanish or Japanese. Asking them to laugh on top of that? Tall order.
So Heavy Trip, an absurd, rollicking comedy from Finland about a garage metal band intent on scoring their first live gig (after just 12 years of rehearsals, no less), has its work cut out for it. Thankfully, directing duo Jukka Vidgren and Juuso Laatio (who share writing credits with Aleksi Puranen and Jari Olavi Rantala) deliver an underdog story for the masses rife with big laughs, even if the whole thing is in Finnish.
Turo (Johannes Holopainen) lives in a small town where there isn’t much to do; he rides his bike through town to work at a long-term healthcare home and often visits Miia (Minka Kuustonen), the sweet clerk at the flower shop, working up the courage to ask her out. But make no mistake, Turo is no country bumpkin. With slick straight hair down to his elbows, he’s sings lead in a band with his buddies. A heavy metal band that rocks hard and rehearses harder. So hard, in fact, that they’ve been practicing covers in the garage for over a decade without ever having played a gig.
When a concert promoter comes through town (as they do) and mentions a music festival in Norway, Turo and the band are bound and determined to get a spot in it. They’re a charming cast of characters, including the optimistic drummer Jynkky (Antti Heikkinen); the morose and musical know-it-all Pasi (Max Ovaska); and Lotvonen (Samuli Jaskio), who works in his dad’s reindeer slaughterhouse (Finland, after all). The sheer abandon with which these four let their freak flags fly, leaning hard into their metal bona fides, gets us halfway to a great film from the outset. That it builds on these characters (plus a few oddballs from town) with a plot so committed to absurdity that Judd Apatow would be proud is what makes it fun from start to finish.
The faint of heart need not apply; not that there’s anything objectionable here (were it rated, one imagines it would land a solid PG-13 for a bit of salty language and mild sex scenes). Instead, what may put off those who prefer their foreign film with a bit more refinement is the projectile vomiting, the incessant heavy metal music (less singing, more screaming) and the goofy, sometimes predictable gags (some involving a corpse). It’s all played to hilarious effect, of course; if you can, see this one with an audience where the laughs from your fellow film-goers will surely elevate this slapstick rock comedy to an eleven.
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