By Phil Hall | February 21, 2005

In the middle of the otherwise quotidian sports documentary “Viking Strong Reloaded” is an astonishing sequence which deserves to be cherished as the most unintentionally hilarious example of food preparation ever captured on video. The subject of the documentary is Tommi Thorvildsen, a Norwegian bodybuilding champion who emigrated to California in search of muscle-flexing success. His goals seem to be a bit elusive, as witnessed by the dark and tiny apartment in Venice, California where Thorvildsen resides.

The sequence in question takes place in Thorvildsen’s kitchen, a fairly small space which barely contains the behemoth athlete. If you’re expecting an extravagant food demonstration along the lines of the late Julia Child, forget it. Thorvildsen maintains an excessively somber mood which calls to mind Max von Sydow’s performances in the classic Ingmar Bergman movies – not exactly the personality one expects for simultaneously whipping up meals and enthusiasm. But then again, the meals aren’t exactly haute cuisine: chicken breasts and hamburgers plopped on a George Foreman grill, a bag of broccoli emptied into a plastic container and deposited into a microwave, and protein shake powder spooned into a large glass and mixed with water.

But then comes the rice, or at least Thorvildsen tells us this is rice. While looking at the camera with a heavy air of doom and gloom, Thorvildsen pokes a beefy arm across the kitchen range and pulls out a canister marked “Oats.” He then begins to scoop out heaping servings of what clearly looks like oatmeal flakes, yet he insists he is making rice. He deposits the oats (or rice, or whatever) into an iron pot pre-filled with water and sets it on his stovetop. And then, in his lightly-accented English, the Norwegian champ informs us how long the rice/oats should cook: “Vhen dis starts to boil, I put a lid on der top.” And then he walks away from the kitchen.

Beyond this amazing kitchen wizardry, “Viking Strong Reloaded” has relatively little to offer in regard to original and intriguing viewing. Basically, it is the Bergmanesque-somber Thorvildsen lifting a variety of weights to build up his physique. Occasionally his gym routines are interrupted by small talk by large iron pumpers, including a rather old-looking Lou Ferrigno, and at odd moments Thorvildsen appears in a window in the lower corner of the screen to explain why he is doing a particular exercise and what effects he should gain from this chore.

Beyond the gym and kitchen, Thorvildsen glumly moseys around a supermarket (clutching a small list, so as not to forget any goodies) and also makes a guest appearance at a bodybuilding expo (where the conspicuous lack of fan traffic at his booth suggests he needs to pump up his star power as well as his biceps).

In fairness, Thorvildsen is not all doom and gloom. At one point, he looks into the camera, breaks into an uncharacteristically wide grin and asks: “How are you feeling today?” After watching “Viking Strong Reloaded,” the answer would be: a bit bored, a bit amused, and not in the mood for rice.

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