We gave it a B-
When it comes to exploring the lighter side of barbarism or discovering the humor in ancient crusades, who ya gonna call? A Monty Python alumnus, of course! In the ’70s, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones created such modest but hysterical mock historicals as Monty Python and the Holy Grail,The Life of Brian, and Jabberwocky. Gilliam’s ambitions have since blossomed iito complex endeavors such as Brazil. But Jones — who wrote, directed, and appears in Erik the Viking — is content just to spill blood and raise old-fashioned mythological mirth.
Revising the popular view of Vikings, Jones has created the well-meaning Erik (Tim Robbins, doing a Tom Hanks riff), a hapless romantic who lacks the resolve to have his way with women. While defending a would-be love interest against more determined pillagers, he accidentally stabs her; she dies expressing sarcastic gratitude for being saved from a ”fate worse than death.”
Jones uses comically outlandish violence to deliver an overtly moral message about war and arms profiteering. Erik and his men go to ninth-century Tahiti, where violence is unknown — until a venal Viking sword-maker changes that. Therein lies the paradox: This simplistic fable is too strong for children and too shallow for adults. Good-natured and intermittently amusing, Erik the Viking amounts to a pleasant diversion, but has a soft center and a sweet, mushy conclusion that is far more sunny than funny.