Being from the UK, it’s very hard to explain to people outside of Europe what the Eurovision song contest is really about, and what all the fuss is (it doesn’t help that I myself, can’t answer those questions). But people seem to flock to it like it’s some resplendent religion, garnering fans from all across the globe. So, upon hearing the news that Will Ferrell would be diving head first into the weird and wonderful world of the Eurotrash, pop extravaganza that is this show, I was immediately on board.
Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams are Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir. They make up what is better known as ‘Fire Saga’. An Icelandic pop duo, who have dreamt of making it to the Eurovision song contest ever since they were little. In a twisted turn of events, the undeniably trash pair earn their shot at representing their country and small hometown of Húsavík. Despite the lack of support from their own nation, Fire Saga refuse to give up on their lifelong dream.
Ferrell’s track record as of recent hasn’t exactly been exemplary, but if there was ever an opportunity to tap into his man-child mannerisms, then this really was the chance, and there is certainly glimmers of gold. From the ongoing gags, to the off and on again Icelandic accents and the moments it does actually embrace the ridiculousness of the competition in which it’s ‘mocking’.
If only they were willing to fully take the heat from the Eurovision followers, they could have gone much further with the jokes. The Fire Saga story comes off as more of an admiration for the competition, and less of a distasteful mockery. There feels like a significant level of pandering from the company, which has resulted in the film becoming too timid to offer any significant, and worthwhile, comedic punches. The brunt of the jokes fall within the first half hour of the movie, and becomes increasingly cringey the further on we go.
The first two original tracks to appear in the film do best to demonstrate what the Eurovision song contest is at its best. The Fire Saga’s aptly named ‘Volcano Man’ and regrettably catchy ‘Jaja Ding Dong’ (seriously the latter of which will be stuck in your head for the remainder of the movie) seem like the appropriate representation of silliness. Ironically during the time the film needed that the most, it tries too hard to replicate the Eurovision formula, as apposed to further exploiting it. Most of the soundtrack as a result, manages to feel like a representation of musicals and less of a comedy riff off which I was so prepared for.
Ferrell has certainly been better, but in a counter argument he’s also been worse. So that’s a success? Rachel McAdams on the other hand goes toe to toe with Ferrell on every comedic beat. Her performance of the sweet and wholesome Sigrit is the movie’s shiniest component. Dan Stevens also appears to be having the time of his life as the eccentric Russian, Lemtov. The frontrunner of the competition, but he’s also the given the weakest segments within the story. Piers Brosnan also stars as Lars’ disgruntled father, Erick. All i’ll say about that is thank god we don’t have to listen to him sing this time.
The Story of Fire Saga droops in quality significantly after the first act. Where its narrative tries to tighten and become structurally adjacent to that of the show, the jokes get flatter and there’s even an entire segment of the movie which is an eye-roll worthy level of drivel. If the two hour runtime seems a little far-fetched, then the segment set at the Russian’s home, which features a cheesy sing along to ABBA (the point I almost checked out of this movie entirely) and some unneeded cameos from some real Eurovision contestants, would be the first to be cut.
Ferrell’s latest Netflix original shies away from throwing real shade towards the European phenomenon, which begs the question what’s really the point? If you wanted to have a laugh at something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then you may as well just watch the show (or at least the ‘highlights’ if you want to save yourself 4 hours). As somebody who does everything he can to ignore the European celebration however, I could happily swap this in for my yearly dose of musical calamity.