Actors: Greg Pohler, Josephine Bornebusch, Patrick Duffy
Director: Carl Astrand
Format: Multiple Formats, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
Number of discs: 2
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Entertainment One
DVD Release Date: May 19, 2015
Run Time: 220 minutes
The IMDB page for “Welcome to Sweden” is filled with user praise, primarily from those who are Swedish or have been exposed to the culture through relationships. If you were to only judge this series based upon the realism of the humor about an American attempting to bond with the family of his Swedish girlfriend along with the fish-out-of-water narrative of adapting to a new culture, it certainly is deserving of some praise. The rest of the show is a complete failure, only possible because of the nepotistic connections of creator and star Greg Poehler, who seems far too reliant on sister Amy Poehler to produce, guest star, and provide a variety of famous cameos that would not have been obtained on the show’s merits alone.
The story involves New York accountant Bruce Evans (Greg Poehler), who suddenly quits his job working for a number of difficult celebrities (Amy Poehler, Aubrey Plaza, Will Ferrell, Malin Akerman; all of which play caricatures of their own personas) and moves to Sweden to live with his girlfriend, Emma (Josephine Bornebusch). This situation is complicated by Bruce’s ignorance about Swedish culture, his inability to shake celebrity clients accustomed to getting what they want, and difficulties relating to Emma’s family.
The head of Emma’s family is matriarch Viveka (Lena Olin), whose job as a therapist bleeds into her social encounters with Bruce. There are additional family members, including a passive father (Claes Månsson), a brother in arrested development and a Hollywood-obsessed uncle working at a video store, but awkward humor pointing out cultural differences overrides any sense of sincere character development. This makes for a show that will only be relatable to those who have been in a similar situation or have some type of personal experience with Swedish culture. This includes Greg, whose real-life marriage inspired the narrative for this show his sister produced for him.
My biggest issue with the show may seem to be the handout Greg was given due to his relation to Amy, but it is the lack of development which makes me think this is the only reason his show was created. Not only does the character of Emma feel sadly underdeveloped, even the leading role of Bruce is often only used as a prop for the show’s cultural division gags. His behavior is often crass and unlikable, seeming to play off the stereotype of an entitled American persona to balance the jabs that are taken at Swedish culture in the show. The only problem with this is that it leaves the audience nobody to like and no reason to root for the central relationship or care enough to continue watching. The second season airs in July, though I imagine this has a better chance at success with Swedish audiences.
The first season includes 10 episodes, with formatting that even feels directed at Swedish audiences rather than American. All of the promos I saw for the show in American played up the brief appearance by Ferrell, as though he were the star. I’m sure the same will happen with the second season, which boasts cameos from Jack Black and others. It is just a shame that the shell of the show they offer their talents to is so derivative and dreary.
Entertainment Value: 5.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10