Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’ musical comedy is an acute reminder of the international singing competition that, since 1956 has been uniting European countries together in song, extravagance, and snazziness. As the main event was cancelled due to the global pandemic, Netflix’s film is more than welcome addition to an empty slate for fans who revel in the competition’s unparalleled frenzy.
On paper, the film could well be the thematic successor to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or Mamma Mia, but does not reach close to their mirth or charm. The film packs in multiple oddities of the Icelandic doofus duo of Lars (Will Ferrell), a peevish man-child, and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), a sweet music teacher whose confidants are few ever-elusive elves.
While Sigrit shows considerable merit as a singer, the town’s “fool” Lars is an egomaniac with very little talent and a mammoth urge to prove his ever-critical father (Pierce Brosnan) wrong by winning Eurovision. Through a series of unlikely accidents, the couple, who call themselves Fire Saga, reach the contest and miraculously win (not a surprise there). But, even though you expect the ending, there’s enough faith in the writing team to spin an entertaining run-up reaching up to the climax, and that is where the film fails. It’s just another idiot-surreal character sketch that amounts to an overly stretched episode of Saturday Night Live.
Ferrell is a surprisingly sedate version of goofy that hardly acts as a cornerstone to bear the comedic load the film promises. It is even odder that Ferrell took on the role to co-write with Adam Steele, and director, David Dobkin, and missed out on the funny (by miles).
Multiple quirky, flashy costumes; awful, bouncy EDM tracks; and eccentric Russian co-contestants with garish marble structures modelled on himself, do little to a paper-thin screenplay that falters minutes into its start.
The backbone of the film should ideally have been the brilliant original scores by talented musicians (including Savan Kotecha) who hit it out of the park with the Europop soundscape that the contest is best known for.
Eurovision Song Contest maps out its way through two hours of runtime with two main narrative umbrellas – the unrequited romance between the couple that feels like a necessary throughline, quickly transforming into an annoying sub-plot that works more as padding. And a second hackneyed father-son rift that works as fodder for the nitwit son to shine through at the end.
The film is not an out-and-out parody of Eurovision (suggesting that the corporate definitely had a say in it), but neither is it an intelligent musical satire. Even if the makers could (for a moment) be considered to bear affection towards the subject they planned to lampoon, the film never has any direction. It’s so uni-dimensional that it hardly evokes any worthy reaction.
What should have been a humourous, musical ode to the undeniably absurd pop-heavy annual event capable of stirring million hearts from sadness to abandon, turns into flat, jagged story-telling amounting to just a dumb romantic comedy.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga streams on Netflix.
(All images from Netflix)