Recommendation: A middle of the road, studio comedy that fails to fully embrace its talented cast or rise above its ridiculous premise. But, the songs are catchy! 5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: When aspiring musicians Lars and Sigrit are given the opportunity to represent their country at the world’s biggest song competition, they finally have a chance to prove that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is, quite frankly, a movie meant for a different time. Not to say that it’s bad—also not great—but it’s a mid-budget, throwback studio comedy anchored by a ridiculous plot, with big name movie stars… that kind of misses the mark. The premise is centered around the actual Eurovision Song Contest, a wildly popular, European Idol-type of pop contest. So for those that don’t know it or are turned off by musical numbers, this isn’t the flick for you. But more critically, the film posits a world that is kinder, more genuine, and probably a bit simpler one than the actual world we’re living in today. But instead of either focusing biting social satire or popcorn escapism, the film floats in the middle, doing little of either.
The film focuses on Fire Saga, an Icelandic pop band made up of lifelong friends Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams). Dripping with positivity, a truly insane wardrobe, and a certain naivety that comes with a sheltered, idyllic upbringing, the duo’s goal is to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Much to the chagrin of Lars’ father (played by Pierce Brosnan), Lars will not give up his dream. However, after years of struggling to find a hit song and being asked to play folksy pop covers at bars (“Jaja, Ding Dong” is a true jam), the cracks in the armor start to appear. But blind luck would put them into Iceland’s regional feeder contest, where predictably they are a disaster. Yet again, blind luck would save them from a disaster that kills the rest of the contestants (including Iceland’s presumptive entrant Katia (Demi Lovato).
At Eurovision, we’re introduced to the MVP of the film, Russian pop star and not-so-undercover gay playboy Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens). The odds on favorite to win, the Russian’s song is dripping in innuendo, and he immediately has eyes for Sigrit. A character of this order could easily wander off the deep end of caricature, but Stevens manages to walk the line between appropriately flamboyant and surprisingly heartfelt. In the contest, the duo are clearly out of their element. Throughout rehearsals, the first round, and at the after-hours parties, the film sets up the artificial stakes. Lars is a man-child who never outgrew his blind devotion to the contest—or the lack of his father’s love—while Sigrit learns there’s more to the world—and herself—than Lars and Fire Saga.
As the film comes to a climax and resolution, the heartfelt parts feel manufactured, while some of the comedy feels shoehorned in. In fact, the story beats are pretty familiar. The physical comedy is very on brand for Will Ferrell. Yet the songs are actually far catchier and of a quality than expected. Unfortunately, the film isn’t much more than a two hour distraction… and maybe that’s good enough for a Netflix movie these days.
Find it here on Netflix.
Highlights: The fake pop songs are pretty catchy (and surprisingly well made). The locations in the first half of the film are pretty gorgeous. Elves.
MVP: While Will Ferrell is in his element, the comedic MVP is Rachel McAdams with her perfect timing. Dan Stevens as Lemtov deserves a spin off.
Director: David Dobkin
Studio: Netflix // Release date: June 13, 2020