It’s not the actual Eurovision, but the song parodies in this mostly affectionate Will Ferrell satire are close enough
I saw the Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga movie, now streaming on Netflix. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play longtime friends from a small Icelandic fishing village. Ferrell is a lunatic middle-aged man-child who has a lifelong dream of participating in the Eurovision song contest. McAdams indulges his dream as his bandmate in Fire Saga. She also longs to be with him romantically, even though she’s smarter, more talented, and way better-looking than he is. The real-life McAdams is at least a dozen years younger than Ferrell, but in the movie they’re supposed to be the same age. They have some funny scenes and songs together, but in terms of their romantic chemistry, Ferrell might as well be a dirt clod. There’s no Notebook-style rain kissing in this film. Will Ferrell, to put it mildly, isn’t Ryan Gosling.
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA ★★★(3/5 stars)
Directed by: David Dobkin
Written by: Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele
Starring:Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Lovato
Running time: 123 min
The movie more or less works, though, as an affectionate parody of and homage to the bonkers Eurovision song contest. It contains lots of very funny song and dance numbers that land so closely to actual Eurovision performances they don’t really seem like parodies. Ferrell can actually sing, and whoever is singing for McAdams can really sing. Downtown Abbey’s Dan Stevens plays the third major character, a hilarious Russian lothario in semi-denial about the fact that he’s gay. He doesn’t sing, but he’s an excellent lip-syncer. In the middle of the film, the action stops for a joyous party scene where dozens of former Eurovision contestants perform a medley of cheesy club tunes. It shows this film’s true pure golden Eurotrash heart.
But it also exposes its flaws. “Eurovision” is more than two hours long. No shaggy-dog subculture contest comedy should run longer than an hour and 40. It doesn’t have the satirical bite or pure weirdness like Anchorman or Talladega Nights, Ferrell’s monster-hit collaborations with Adam McKay. Instead, it often just hangs there like a mid-episode SNL sketch.
The movie would have been much better if they’d just gone for it Christopher Guest-style, really focusing on the competition itself and the wacky personalities that populate it. Instead, you get constant and predictable twists and turns with McAdams’ and Ferrell’s romance, a weird subplot involving a sinister Icelandic executive, and typical issues between Ferrell and his father, played by Pierce Brosnan in his 18th consecutive awkward film role since the end of his James Bond run. Ferrell is equidistant in age between his dad and his supposed love interest in the film, which is supremely distracting.
“Eurovision” also wastes a prime asset in Demi Lovato, the only actual music star in its entire cast. It kills her off in a gruesome and flippant way and then continually brings her back, only to discard her again. There are snippets of Lovato singing here and there, but never a full number. Why do that but feature dozens of scenes of Ferrell prancing about in an artificially-stuffed leotard? There’s also an interesting but odd running bit where Ferrell endlessly insults a group of American college-aged tourists. The film takes mild potshots at pretty much every Western country: Russia is homophobic, Iceland is hopelessly provincial, Sweden is no place for hip-hop, and everyone hates the U.K. But it reserves its harshest attacks for the U.S.A., a country that never even sniffs Eurovision.
McAdams carries the film. She more than keeps up with Ferrell in the comedy scenes, and invests her ridiculous character, Sigrid, with tremendous wide-eyed pathos. It’s a movie-star turn that brightens the room. Also, the songs are mostly awesome, and provide a great distraction as the world rots around us. The actual Eurovision song contest is canceled this year. This movie will have to do. With that in mind, here’s Fire Saga, performing their hit song “Volcano Man.”
This concludes my review of the Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga movie.