Review: Solan & Ludwig: The Great Cheese Race – Solan og Ludvig: Herfra til Flåklypa (2015)

Solan & Ludwig: The Great Cheese Race – Solan og Ludvig: Herfra til Flåklypa (2015)

Directed by: Rasmus A. Sivertsen | 78 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Mitchell van den Dungen Bille, Dennis Willekens, Hero Muller, Rutger le Poole, Lucas Dietens, Frank Hoelen, Finn Poncin, Just Meijer, Fred Meijer, Jan Nonhof, Joost Claes, Jürgen Theuns, Has Drijver

More than five thousand visitors saw the previous ‘Solan & Ludwig’ film in Dutch cinemas around Christmas 2014. ‘Solan and Ludwig and the Snow Machine’ was a modest commercial success. But almost everyone who saw him agreed that Norwegian stop-motion production was of high quality. In ‘Solan & Ludwig: The Great Cheese Race’ we see the overconfident duck Solan and his best friend, the frightened hedgehog Ludwig. Of course, the clever inventor Reodor – actually a father figure to the couple – is back again.

And luckily it is a nice reunion. The characters haven’t lost any of their charm yet. Solan still believes in the motto ‘talk, then think’ and the touching Ludwig is his opposite in everything, but their friendship is convincing and sincere. The detailed sets and beautifully shaped figures (made by the Dutch Pedri Animation in Ankeveen!) are a feast for the eyes. Each of the inhabitants of Flåklypa and Slidre looks completely different. And that’s a relief after all those CGI films in which the majority of the interchangeable characters have the same shiny haircut and the same almond-shaped eyes.

Since the story of ‘Solan & Ludwig: The Great Cheese Race’ is about a competition, where an exciting race is held between the two rival villages Flåklypa and Slidre – with an unexpectedly high stakes – many different sets were needed. That required a lot of creativity from the set builders. But the vehicles and other inventions with which the race is held are also inventive. The animation film is bursting at the seams with funny details.

A film aimed at children in which a competition forms the main part, it cannot but be predictable, yet Rasmus A. Sivertsen, who also directed the previous ‘Solan & Ludwig’ adventure, keeps it exciting and humorous. ‘The great cheese race’ can certainly not be labeled as a formula film. Of course, the childish rivalry that reigns between the (adult!) characters is looked through with a magnifying glass and they learn what the real valuable things in life are. However, the relatively short running time is used effectively: there is no time to get bored, but at the same time the film exudes a nostalgic atmosphere – great for the adults watching. Very cleverly, references to contemporary culture are also interwoven, such as social media. The underlying criticism of greed, power and the media is timeless, but still just as relevant. And so the figures, originally conceived and drawn by Kjell Aukrust, who died in 2002, can last for generations to come.

Anyone who has ever been involved with Lego, Playmobil or homemade clay dolls to make a stop-motion film of a few seconds (with one of the countless apps a handy toddler can already put together an amateur film with an iPad), knows how incredibly long it takes. Stop motion is one of the animation techniques that demands respect for the maker just because of the endless patience. If the end result is also as beautiful and entertaining as ‘Solan & Ludwig: The Great Cheese Race’, then a deep bow is the least the filmmakers deserve. Tribute!

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