Barring perhaps Stranger than Fiction, Will Ferrell has solidified his comedic film career as the loud, dumb guy. Nearly always playing a delusional man-child. Coming into Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, there’s a certain amount of expectations that come with the film. Viewers simply looking for an excuse to see Ferrell and McAdams wear goofy costumes, have terrible Nordic accents and make complete jackasses of themselves will be satisfied. And I’m pretty sure nothing can be said to dissuade you from the novelty. For everyone else wondering if Eurovision has more to offer than the high-budget Saturday Night Live antics, we’re going to have to take a deeper look.
Eurovision follows the story of Lars Erricsong and Sigrit Erricsdottir, an Icelandic musical duo called Fire Saga trying to make it big in the music world. Unfortunately, they’re stuck in a dead-end town and their musical ambitions are not shared by their peers and family members. All this, however, changes when Lars and Sigrit enter into an Icelandic singing competition in an attempt to earn a spot in 2020’s Eurovision Song Contest. The biggest annual singing competition in the whole of Europe. It’s a real thing apparently, look it up. In a cruel twist of fate (and a stroke of luck for Fire Saga), all their competitors are blown to smithereens. Thus making them the official Icelandic representative for the contest. Lars and Sigrit will now show the world the true power of Fire Saga!
The film was originally slated for a theatrical release in May, in conjunction with the actual Eurovision Song Contest. With COVID-19 happening, it’s sad to say that the pandemic has somewhat thrown a wrench in the film’s topical effect. Nonetheless, the show must go on…Netflix streaming services. I won’t lie, Eurovision isn’t a particularly fresh concept. It feels like an amalgamation of Jack Black’s School of Rock, Farrell’s Blades of Glory and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno. All blended and distilled into a single diluted experience; not nearly as clever as the films it takes inspiration from.
Farrell once again draws upon his talent as a physical comedian, and to his credit, he really gives it his all. That being said, there’s only so many times he can fall on his face and bumble about before it becomes redundant. Which is exactly the word I used to describe the jokes in Eurovision: redundant. A good majority of the film’s jokes are reliant on antiquated stereotypes of Eastern European and Nordic people groups. We get it, Europe’s more liberal attitude to sex is weird. We get it, Nordic people used to be Vikings. We get it, Nordic people have weird accents! Oh and the accents, don’t get even get me started with Ferrell and McAdams’ laughable attempt at an Icelandic dialect. Look I get that their terrible impersonation of Icelanders is played up for laughs. It was funny…for the first 15 minutes. For a whole feature-length film, though? I’ll pass.
None of the comedic elements is bad per se, it’s just that they’re lazily executed. Ferrell and writer Andrew Stelle are the ones responsible for the screenplay. It’s sad to say that both of them haven’t quite caught up with the times. It’s not completely shallow dribble, though. I did find the film’s commentary on the hegemony of English language media quite interesting. Eurovision‘s statement about the abandonment of one’s cultural heritage to adopt some ubiquitous pop-American facade is one that feels especially relevant in today’s media world. Ironically enough, the message is filtered through the lens of Americans impersonating Icelanders who speak fragmented English…in their own country. Sort that one out for yourself.
One of the few bright spots here is Rachel McAdam’s charming performance as the wonderfully sanguine, if not ridiculously superstitious, Sigrit. McAdams brings an insane amount of charm and likability to her character. A nice change of pace, seeing that most female love interest in films in the vein of man-children chasing their dreams often have their female leads serving as nothing more than trophies earned after some moral epiphany. Don’t get me wrong, that still happens here but at the very least, the film gives equal focus to Sigrit’s journey as it does with Lars. McAdams’ comedic timing and delivery here continues to consolidate here place in the annals of comedy cinema. She is one to watch out for.
Well, the comedy part of this film is hit-and-miss. Is the film’s music at very least memorable? Yes, Eurovision‘s tongue-in-cheek soundtrack consisting of cheesy musical numbers is one for the books! Truthfully, there were moments when I was swept up in the awe of the musical performances. Enthralled by how such a talented cast of musicians and singers can perform these facetious songs full of nonsense lyrics with so much passion and commitment. This I could not help but find humorous. The incongruity between quality artistic expression and low-brow pop numbers was simply too much!
The standouts here are Dan Steven’s Royal Russian rock opera ballad “Lion of Love” and Ferrell, McAdam and Molly Sanden’s melodic “Double Trouble”. Then, of course, there’s “Husavik”. An uproarious love letter to Iceland wrapped up in an immaculate power ballad held together by Molly Sanden’s voice (lip-synched by McAdams). For one brief moment, all the flaws in the film seemed to have melted away in a stunning symphony of McAdam’s presence, Sanden’s angelic voice and Eurovision‘s garish set. Then, it all goes back to the usual schtick. It was nice while it lasted.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga will definitely strike a chord with those who resonate with Ferrell’s over-the-top sense of humour. Those wise to his act may find some comfort in McAdams’ magnetic performance and the film’s catchy musical numbers amidst this uneven quality. If you enjoy films like Pitch Perfect and Andy Sandberg’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, then Eurovision‘s right up your alley. For everyone else, I’d recommend watching it with friends after you’ve knocked back a few cold ones and a couple of episodes of America’s Got Talent. You can catch Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga on Netflix today!