Review: Body Troopers

Children’s sci-fi movie jaktenpånyresteinendvdabout medical mysteries. It was Norway’s first major special effects movie and is not only entertaining for the kids, but educating as well.

Eight year old Simen finds out that his grandfather, an old jazz musician, suffers from unspecific pains. With the help from a talking, magic teddybear, Simen drinks a special potion which transforms him into a microscropic size, which enables him to enter his grandfather’s body and start investigating. There he meets Mapster, a young white blood cell, and a cute girl, Alveola (part of the lungs) who helps him locate the pains and destroy the kidney stone.

When Body Troopers (original title Jakten på Nyresteinen – literally meaning The hunt for the kidney stone) came out in 1996, it was not only an expensive sci-fi movie but it was also Norway’s first CGI-heavy movie, as well as the first “special effects movie”, with 200 effects shots in addition to practical and make-up effects which are in virtually every scene. It was probably the first Norwegian movie that could not have been made without the extensive use of computer effects. This alone makes it a landmark movie (at least in local terms) but the fact that it pulls off everything without being a freak is perhaps more surprising. The special effects do look like mid-90s CGI for sure, but the visual universe is created in such a way that it doesn’t look cheesy. Just like Labyrinth has many weird characters and The Muppet Show appeals to children in a completely different way than to adults, so is Body Troopers a sci-fi medical adventure for children that can also be enjoyed by adults for its bizarre characters, puns and fun naivité. The comparison to the two Jim Henson creations mentioned above is not coincidental; Body Troopers looks and feels exaggerated just like the Muppet puppets, but in a way you know will be fun to children. There is also a big educational element in the story, as we learn little things about what’s inside the human body and how bodies work, and I think lots of children was enticed by that to soak up more knowledge. It’s information presented in a way kids can easily relate to, although for most of the time it doesn’t feel contrieved. The story is nicely told, although in a road movie-esque way with endless encounters and you start to wonder when is the finale coming, but it’s all in good fun and whenever the story is repeating itself, you’ll want to see more of the strange world that is grandfather’s intestines (or try to catch how many similarities it has to Fantastic Voyage or Innerspace).

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Given that it’s a children’s movie and all actors play funky characters, acting as an art is not the same as in other types of movies; here you expect actors to go over the top, which they do, and it’s also fun to catch all the celebreties that make cameo roles. Can you spot the 80s pop star? Norwegian actors are generally forced to do all kinds of work, from commercials to theatre and children’s shows on TV, so they are used to going all the way in terms of making funny faces while delivering dialogue. There are only three child actors in the movie (of which one is Jenny Skavlan, later one of Norway’s hotties) which I find a little pussling for a children’s movie, but they are always in the picture so maybe the kids watching will not feel left out.

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I did not watch Body Troopers with kids but the child in me gives thumbs up for most parts of the movie. It may stand with one leg in the old world of politically correct infotainment which was typical for Norwegian movies until the 90s, but it is also a lot of innocent fun for innocent minds (lawyers representing Fantastic Voyage or Innerspace need not to watch the film though).

Rated 6 of 10.

Director: Vibeke Idsøe.

Norway, 1996.

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