Song of Norway is one of those films that inspires a "what were they thinking?!" reaction in most viewers. Part of the cycle of cinematic musical disasters that followed in the wake of The Sound of Music's incredible success, Song of Norway is a laughably old-fashioned operetta/biography that revels in piling cliché upon cliché. It also features dialogue that ranges from trite to obvious, cardboard characters (that bear no relation to the real-life figures upon which they are supposedly based) and lyrics that traffic in overblown poesy. Edvard Grieg's music, of course, is beautiful, but it is not properly adapted for musical theatre purposes; even worse, most of the songs are not properly led into -- they simply pop up and then disappear. Much of Lee Theodore's choreography is overly stagy; she also seems to have decided, "when in doubt, have the characters run." As Greig, Toralv Maurstad is bland and inconsequential, with a singing voice that borders on dismal. Florence Henderson and Frank Poretta sound better (although Poretta pushes too hard vocally), but they can do little dramatically with their by-the-numbers characters. The direction is sloppy, the editing bizarre and choppy and the sound quality is among the worst in a major studio production. The film's only saving grace is the gorgeous scenery, but there's too much of it; almost every number cuts away inopportunely for shot after shot after shot after shot of frozen fjords, flower-strewn meadows or mountains framed by a midnight sun. One's initial reaction to Norway is probably to be one of incredulous laughter, but the amusement factor fades long before the films 143 minutes are over.
by Craig Butler review