One of the strangest and most wonderful movies I’ve ever seen is 1969’s “Pippi Longstocking.” I barely remember a thing about it except that it involved the misadventures of an odd Swedish girl who liked to dance on rooftops. I recall, as a kid, that the movie was subtitled and looked like it had originally been released many years prior. Just like “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was released on PBS many years after its original run, so too with this oddball family movie.
What if some of that Pippi magic could occur today? Hey, how about if Pippi rescued the President of the United States? Well, that amazing scenario is indeed played out in 2014’s “Big Game.” Yes, the same Scandinavian eccentricity that gave us the little ragamuffin in pigtails, now gives us a totally weird and awesome kid adventure movie. And the best thing of all is that Samuel L. Jackson is the President!
“Big Game” is now my favorite strange and wonderful movie. Oskari, the 13-year-old Finnish boy who saves a president, (played by Onni Tommila) is a new generation’s Pippi Longstocking! I don’t say that lightly. The fanciful quality to this movie is so uninhibited that it immediately took me back to the closest thing to it, Pippi. It is such an outrageously whimsical plot and yet it runs on a sound logic all its own. Sure, why not, a boy’s rite of passage, of shooting down a moose or bear, is abruptly interrupted when Air Force One comes crashing down into the tundra. Assassins are on the loose since POTUS survived the crash. It will be up to little Oskari to foil their plans.
There is some real nail-biting tension as POTUS and boy get to know each other while, unbeknownst to them, killers are in hot pursuit. The story reads like a fable but there are a number of nuanced moments and a worldliness running throughout. These are not just assassins but terrorists with a twisted cause. So, even in this faraway land that may seem so innocent, the war on terror is not far behind. Another nod to realism is Jackson’s understated demeanor. He has to hold back on the macho stuff. He is, after all, the leader of the free world. Maybe he doesn’t know how to use a machine gun the first time he uses one. But, push come to shove, Mr. President can handle himself.
The ugly realities of the world have now intruded upon a world that Pippi only knew as silly and fun. I never bothered to question whether a little boy should be fighting terrorists in the Finnish tundra. It was just meant to be.