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Every country has their lovable, bumbling idiot. America has Jerry Lewis (though France would rather claim him), Mexico has Cantinflas, England has Peter Sellers as the unforgettable Inspector Clouseau and so on. The latest to join this august chorus of ineptitude appears to be Swede Anders Jansson who wrote and stars in Morgan Pålsson – Världsreporter, a slapstick comedy suitable for the whole family directed by Fredrik Boklund. Anders reprises his role from the 2002 hit “Vaktmästaren och professorn” (Caretaker and professor) along with Johan Wester as Morgan’s wiley cameraman, Robert Flycht.
Morgan Pålsson is a self absorbed Swedish television journalist (yes, it’s redundant) with a knack for getting himself kicked from the frying pan, directly into the fire. The movie opens with Morgan and Robert setting up in Klaipeda, Lithuania on a dock awaiting the arrival of several dignitaries including the Prime Minister of Sweden. Pålsson quickly points out to Flycht that while he’s a strict company man Flycht is a mere freelancer, therefore Flycht gets to carry the gear. Pålsson, trying to figure out where they are, mentions that the name of the town sounds like a venereal disease. Then, in Clouseau-esque fashion, Pålsson trips the Lithuanian President with his microphone cable, mispronounces his name and announces that they’re reporting live from chlamydia. Instead of being fired, which the manager of the SVT network would never do to his friend, Pålsson and Flycht, who were supposed to get a long-term assignment in Washington DC, are sent to the small North African country of Maboto to cover the local government’s switch from a monarchy to a democracy.
The storyline actually offers some rather complex twists with the introduction of a megalomaniacal Afghani terrorist leader who comes to Maboto to steal plutonium from a forgotten military base in the Maboto desert to make into briefcase-sized dirty bombs. The terrorist not only engineers his own, supposed, assasination but also a faux military coup on the Mabotoan government, in order to camouflage his operation. Now enter Morgan’s arch nemesis, female reporter Åse Seierland (Camilla Frey), and her gibberish speaking camera-person, Marit (Elisabeth Lar). Åse has everything that Morgan doesn’t like intelligence, looks, charisma, talent and a good sense of journalistic precognition.
Of course, what Morgan lacks in skills he more than makes up for in over-inflated ego and disastrous ignorance. The competition between these two, completely engineered by Pålsson, winds up being one of the most interesting and funny aspects of the entire movie. It comes in a close second to the running theme of Pålsson and Flycht’s awkward and almost, but not quite, intimate friendship. There are more than a few scenes in which the director cleverly creates a huge amount of almost homosexual tension between Flycht and Pålsson that lead to a colossal number of laughs and eventually becomes part of the main character’s personal growth.
Peter Sellers success as Inspector Clouseau was possible because he made you believe that he felt himself charming, charismatic, sexy and brilliant. Anyone could see just how mistaken he was by observing him for only a moment, but it was possible. While Jansson attempts to capture a portion of that self-grandiose attitude he never quite pulls it off. Instead of hoping for him to suffer from some Wile E. Coyote mishap, like accidentally running into a tank or shooting his cameraman in the foot instead of shooting himself, you tend to feel sorry for this deluded ne’er-do-well. What does work, however, is the chemistry with the other characters. Repeatedly Pålsson announces them as Swedish journalists in order to diffuse the situation and tries to make reference to anything Swedish that his antagonists might recognize. Several times he starts singing Abba tunes, very badly, only confusing the men pointing guns in his direction.
While this movie doesn’t quite make it into the low-brow, “moron pantheon,” it sure tries hard enough and ends up being a goofy and enjoyable slapstick. The production values are high, including some breathtaking cinematography and a pleasant soundtrack including, of course, several selections from Abba. Stick around past the credits, as well, for a final joke involving Morgan and a group of Italians who spend all their time in the middle of the desert shooting crucifixion scenes.
Fredrik Boklund (director) / Wiktor Ericsson, Anders Jansson, Johan Wester (screenplay)
CAST: Anders Jansson … Morgan Pålsson
Johan Wester … Robert Flycht
Fredrik Dolk … Sven
Camilla Frey … Åse Seierland
Elisabeth Lahr … Marit
Karim Rashed … Mohammed