Every year, 2020 being the exception, millions of people all over the world gather around their television sets to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, a music competition that isn’t simply limited to the European continent. While Eurovision is a worldwide phenomenon, it’s still a relatively obscure event for people in the United States even though some clips in recent years have gone viral. Eurovision is about to get a major profile boost in America thanks to the new Netflix film starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The resulting movie is a meandering musical comedy, bloated in length the point of tedium and featuring more bad lip syncing than humorous gags.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga focuses on the eponymous Icelandic musical duo Fire Saga, consisting of Lars Erikssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (McAdams). Lars is very much in the mold of many previous Ferrell characters, a dolt with myopic dreams of musical stardom. As usual, Ferrell does give his all to this inept character but his efforts mostly fall flat as his bumbling man-child characters work best when reflecting the American id. Lars’ popstar aspirations were born watching the 1974 Eurovision Song Competition when the Swedish pop sensation ABBA won the contest. In the years since, Lars and Sigrit, a friend since childhood, have worked tirelessly chasing their musical dreams to little success. Lars’ musical determination has made him a disappointment to his father Erick (Pierce Brosnan), who never passes on an opportunity to remind his son of his failings.
When all the contestants in the Icelandic delegation are killed in a boat explosion, Lars and Sigrit wind up the de facto representatives of their nation for the Eurovision Song Contest. Prior to their departure, Sigrit makes sure provide a sacrificial offering to the miniature elf village in their hometown, an example of the film’s ineffective sense of humor. There is little in the way of comedic flow because its humor is so deeply rooted in the idea that different cultures are just simply hilarious. I’m not saying the film is offensive with its jokes on Nordic culture, just lazy and ineffective.
Of course, a romantic subplot unfolds between Lars and Sigrit, the overambitious Lars oblivious to Sigrit’s romantic desires. It plays out in the screenplay by Ferrell and co-writer Andrew Steele just as expected. A rift emerges as each meets a would-be romantic partner in the Russian crooner Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) and the Greek pop diva Mita Xenakis (Melissanthi Mahut) before they come to their sense and realize it’s each other that they truly love. Dan Stevens tries admirably to garner laughs as a flamboyant showman, but the material often underserves a game performer.
Another target for the film’s laughs is Europop with its synthesized beats and outlandish stage shows. The songs are well-produced and the stage shows are staged well with a glossy production design. However, there’s one glaring problem – the songs aren’t funny. The main song, “Double Trouble,” is catchy enough but it, like the others, lacks a lyrical punchline that lands. Like many of the unfunny gags in the film, the tracks are repeated to diminishing effect. The real one-note joke of the Fire Saga performances is the fact that whenever they take the stage some kind of calamity befalls Lars. It’s emblematic of the problem that plagues all two hours of Eurovision Song Contest in that predictability isn’t that funny.
Director David Dobkin does try to inject a bit of visual flair in this lifeless comedy, and thanks to the dedicated work of the production and costume design teams is able to pull that off to a certain degree. However, the director fails to rein in the material and shape it into anything worth watching. At just over two hours, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is bloated beyond any reasonable length. It contains a formula which spells death for any cinematic comedy –repetitive, predictable, and overlong.
One doesn’t enter Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga expecting a nuanced awards contender. However, one doesn’t expect a dead-on-arrival failed comedy. If I wasn’t reviewing the film, I would’ve moved on to something else rather quickly, and I suspect that’s what’s in store for many viewers when the film lands on Netflix. There’s a level of blatancy to every aspect of its presentation that it leaves no room for surprises. You can’t shock an audience with comic absurdity when we all know what’s coming.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga boasts a cast headlined by Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams and nothing else. Director David Dobkin’s musical comedy is a painfully unfunny bloated mess.