With the Covid -19 pandemic outbreak, the world is a very different place. It means the year 2020 has been a nightmare for absolutely everyone. There has also been the cancellation of sporting events, film events and music events. This of course meant Europe’s (plus Australia?) biggest singing competition got cancelled. The Eurovision Song Contest is held yearly and can verge from the sublime to the absurd. It draws an audience of millions from all over the world because for some reason or another it is very entertaining. This spectacle has been calling out for some kind of film adaptation for years.
Enter Will Ferrell. Ferrell’s history with Eurovision has been going on for years. His Swedish wife introduced him to the event a few years ago and he has been obsessed with it ever since. He has been to the 2014 final and to prep for this movie he attended the 2018 contest as part of the Swedish delegation to really soak in the whole event.
With Will Ferrell on board it was always going to be a comedy, wasn’t it? It stars Ferrell as ‘Lars Erikssong’ and Rachel McAdams as ‘Sigrit Ericksdottir’. They are aspiring singers in an Icelandic pop group called Fire Saga (hence the film’s long winded title). Fire Saga are given the chance after a series of semi funny events to represent their country at the world’s biggest song competition, where they are finally given the chance to achieve their childhood dreams. Joining Ferrell and McAdams are Pierce Brosnan (who is ageing magnificently) as Lars’ unsupportive Father and Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov; Russia’s flamboyant contestant for the competition. Popping up also are Natasia Demetriou, Jamie Demetriou, Olafur Darri Olafsson and Demi Lovato. For fans of Eurovision there are some fun cameos of some past Eurovision stars and BBC’s host Graham Norton.
As a whole the film doesn’t completely gel together. It over-complicates itself with the smaller plots that take you away from the actual storyline. Eurovision (the singing contest not the film) itself is a treasure chest of funny material. It doesn’t need jokes about magical elves and murderous subplots. The film also doesn’t quite buy in to what makes Eurovision such a unique and bizarre event. Sure, some of the performances lean into it, but it doesn’t capture the real spirit of the competition as a whole. A real issue is the pacing; it starts and ends strong but the middle really drags. This feels like it should be a solid 90 minute comedy (which is something you can say about most Will Ferrell comedies isn’t it?) but it runs closer to the two hour mark.
So, is it funny? Well yes and no. This is nothing new from Ferrell, you have seen him play this part a dozen times before. Does it mean he isn’t funny? Luckily not. If you enjoy his style of comedy then this will be OK (it’s no Step Brothers or Anchorman, think more along the lines of Semi-Pro). He brings his likeable comedy chops to a script that doesn’t always deliver on the jokes. The paring of McAdams and Ferrell is strong and they have good chemistry comedy-wise but, the age difference is notable. I think they are meant to be the same age which is a little jarring and unbelievable. McAdams, who is great in most comedy roles she had done (Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers and Game Night) is very likeable here, she is the heart and soul of the movie and the film finds its feet when she is on camera.
It is funny that in the year where Iceland were favourites to win the actual competition, they are portrayed here in not the most flattering light. I’m not too sure how the people of Iceland will respond to their portrayal on camera, hopefully they find it funny because for me it was a little awkward. On a positive note the country itself looks lovely and very pretty. Also everyone one who puts on Icelandic (or Russian) accents never really nail it, they all slip in and out of it unconvincingly.
For many this will be missed opportunity because the idea of a comedy based around Eurovision is a winning combination but overall Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a let down. Luckily it is an easy watch (and on Netflix) just don’t expect to be blown away by it. With that said, the Icelandic final song is surprisingly quite good. Fans of Will Ferrell will be happy but real fans of Eurovision may not be all that thrilled with the portrayal of their beloved singing competition.
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Directed by: David Dobkin
Written by: Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele
Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Natasia Demetriou, Dan Stevens