EUROVISION SONG CONTEST:
THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA ˝
2020, PG-13, 123 mins.
Will Ferrell as Lars Erickssong / Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdottir / Pierce Brosnan as Erick Erickssong / Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov / Demi Lovato as Katiana / Jamie Demetriou as Kevin Swain / Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as JohansDirected by David Dobkin / Written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele
Despite having one of the most nonsensical titles of recent memory, the latest Netflix original film EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (sorry, it sounds like a HUNGER GAMES spin-off) is a comedy set within the real life titular international competition that (quickly checks notes) introduced the world to the likes of ABBA and Celine Dion (arguably the most well known winners).
Will Ferrell was
apparently introduced to Eurovision by his Swedish wife in the late 90s,
which prompted him to envision a feature film comedy built around it.
The best thing I will say about (takes a deep breath) EUROVISION
SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA is that I enjoyed its unique brand of
bizarre lunacy, not to mention that leads Ferrell and Rachel McAdams seem
very equal to the challenge of harnessing all of its incessant oddness.
Unfortunately, the film is basically a one joke, five minute SNL
sketch extended to a punishingly long, endurance testing two-plus hours
running time, inducing viewer fatigue very early on with no contingency
plans for recovery.
The setup here, though, is quite cute and engaging. In an amusing prologue set in the mid-70s we meet future Icelandic singing duo Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (McAdams), but the former child is sad, reclusive, and seems unwilling to be social with anyone, which greatly concerns his recently widowed father (Pierce Brosnan). However, when a Eurovision Song Contest appears on the TV and ABBA makes their debut belting out their iconic "Waterloo" Lars is instantly smitten with the group and breaks out into spontaneous singing and dancing in unison (much to his grumpy father's chagrin). We then flash forward several decades to the present, and when we meet back up with Lars he has had a lifelong artistic connection with Sigrit, with both of them trying to hone their talents together to break into Eurovision and abandon their soul crushing day jobs. One of the more logic defying questions that the film fails to address is how the relatively youthful McAdams is supposed to plausibly pass as a woman in her fifties (if I'm doing the math correct) and that she's supposed to be the same relative age as Ferrell's Erik despite the actor being a decade and a half her senior in real life.
ambitious, but somewhat talentless Iceland duo makes up the group Fire
Saga, and via some extraordinarily convenient plotting they find
themselves not only competing in the preliminary qualifying rounds of
Eurovision Song Contest, but they also miraculously manage to jump the
ranks to fill an empty roster spot for the final showdown to attain top
prize. Predictably, the pair
experience one on-stage embarrassment after another, mostly because Erik -
in pure man-child Will Ferrell-ian fashion - is a hopelessly clueless
amateur with delusions of grandeur, and along the way they face stiff
competition, especially in the form of the hunky Russian singer superstar
Alexander (Dan Stevens from DOWNTON ABBEY, very funny here), who seems to
be developing eyes for the easy on the eyes Sigrit, much to Erik's petty
jealousy. Being a complete
and utter moron, though, Erik is incapable of understanding that Sigrit
actually loves him, which complicates their personal and business
relationship - and any chance to win Eurovision Song Contest - immensely.
If there's one
thing that EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA does reasonably
and thanklessly well it's in how Ferrell (as co-writer here) manages to
bridge the awkward gap between mocking this competition and holding it up
for easy hero worship levels. Even
with its silly tone, this comedy is never mean spirited as a distracting
parody. EUROVISION SONG CONTEST is more of a loving homage that just
happens to contain a lot of ridiculous elements, which leads to some
endearing laughs early on, especially as we witness Erik and Sigrit play
in one dive after another in hopes of nabbing their first big break (it
should be noted that Ferrell does his own mediocre singing here, whereas
the more talented Sigrit is actually voiced in song by Swedish Pop singer
Molly Sanden with McAdams lip synching her). Ferrell has played umpteen iterations of these types of
characters before with his own unique brand of reliable and likeable
idiocy, albeit this time with a hysterically awful accent. He's amusing when required to be here as his doofus with a
dream, but the real scene stealer is McAdams, who manages to play all
of the absurd broadness that's required of her and somehow make her
character come off as authentically sincere and sweet natured.
If you haven't seen her in the terribly underrated GAME
NIGHT from last year then you're missing out; McAdams is one of
those rare double threats that can segue between drama and comedy with relative
CONTEST also has its share of wonderfully engaging and infectiously madcap
musical vignettes, especially in an opening dream sequences featuring Fire
Saga performing "Volcano Man" all decked out in Viking garb,
face paint, and a fantastical backdrop that would put LORD OF THE RINGS to
shame (granted, it's revealed to be all in their minds).
There's a later sequence in the middle of the film that features
one great big group sing along at a party that fluidly transitions from one pop
tune to the next, like Madonna's "Ray of Light" to Cher's
"Believe", and all featuring real life Eurovision stars.
It's a giddily enjoyable montage that sort of perfectly harnesses the whole vibe that this comedy is aiming for: Joyous celebration of
music, but with a cheeky wink-wink to the audience that it's never
taking itself too seriously. There
are other moments of hilarity, like Erik's insistence on a pure white jump
suit stage costume with oversized codpiece, or his chance meeting with a
bunch of idiotically selfish American tourists, and a running gag as to
his real relationship with Sigrit (everyone thinks they are brother and
sister, but he always replies with a "We're not...probably
not"). Equally funny is
Sigrit's religious affiliation to elves and her steadfast belief that
they actually grant wish requests when appeased. And let's not forget about Dan Steven's superbly preposterous
turn as his meticulously well coiffed and over tanned Russian mega celeb
that's an antagonistic macho man stereotype of pure comedic steroids here.