Quest for a Heart is a Finnish animated film from 2007, and it features Rolli, a beloved character from a popular live-action children's show in Finland. One probably doesn't need to know this exact fact to understand the film, but without that knowledge, it all does seem a little bit off. At the very least, it explains some of the awkwardness, the pace thrown off by translation. What it doesn't quite explain is the listless narrative that fails to really get anywhere.
Long ago, the gods created the Heart of Understanding as a means of ending the conflict between them. Milli (voiced by Lisa Stansfield) is an elf who seeks the Heart in order to save her village. Along the way, she encounters the Rölli, a race of hobbit-like creatures who revel in being horrible and filthy. At first, the Rölli aren't very nice to her, but they soon become her unlikely allies. A small group of Rölli accompanies her on her epic journey to a far off mountain, where they must all face their greatest fears.
The movie isn't very long, but it moves very languidly along its quest. The story offers very little for the characters to do on their journey, much of their time given over to repetitive arguments that don't really go anywhere. There is an encounter with some giant fish that adds some thrills, but for the most part, the movie seems content with having these characters amble through this supposedly difficult quest with little resistance.
The film is from 2007, and quite understandably, it can't quite live up to current standards of animation. While there is some charm to the hand drawn characters, they often don’t mesh well with the completely static backgrounds and the occasional computer generated element. At best, one could call it quaint and colorful. It is unlikely, however, that anyone will be wowed by the film's visuals. It really pales in comparison to much of what has been released lately. It doesn’t even particularly look good when held up against animated films from the same era.
The voice acting isn't particularly good, either. The lines are often spaced out awkwardly, and the English dialogue doesn't always seem to match up with the animation. Lisa Stansfield makes Milli a little more annoying than was probably intended. I imagine that the film fares better in its original language. In this version, however, the characters come off as shrill and unlikable. They seem to be shouting at each other all the time, unable to express anything less than outward contempt.
It's strange that we are getting Quest for a Heart in cinemas. It seems like a really tough sell, and it isn't like we are hard up for children's entertainment. The film is already at a disadvantage with its lack of specific cultural context. The fact that it's almost six years old makes it an even more difficult proposition. And beyond all this, the movie just isn't very good. It suffers from a meandering quest that feels like a placeholder for something more meaningful. The heart, in this instance, is truly missing.