Director: David Dobkin | Runtime: 2h 3mins | Comedy, Music
In a small Icelandic village Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) dreams of winning the Eurovision Song Contest to the dismay of his Father (Pierce Brosnan). When he and his best friend/music partner Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) get the chance to represent their country in the competition, they finally get a chance to see their dreams come true.
In recent years Will Ferrell’s track record has taken a tumble. Once the most exciting comedic actors out there, his roles over the 2010’s have somewhat hindered that excitement. From playing Sherlock to unforgettably playing alongside Kevin Hart and Amy Poehler, it’s finally a pleasure to see the comedic star finding a little of what he’s been missing in his newest film, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. A movie that’s hit and miss with its jokes, but has the uncanny ability to entice you with catchy songs and inclusive cast.
Your first instinct is to quickly judge this as mockery, with Iceland being painted as an elf-believing country who’s hopes don’t really stretch further than their icy shores. But the mockery only stems from Ferrell’s performance as a man-child. The film appreciates the magnitude of the competition, especially in certain countries, and knows that even with foreign stars leading it they can formulate their themes accordingly to make sure they land perfectly. Lars Erickssong’s dream is winning the big competition, and being able to prove that he is more than what his small town believe him to be. He’s striving for more, but in the end it’s really about what he already has.
Yet again we see one of Ferrell’s man-child characters accompanied by a woman who is unexplainably head over heels for him, and despite Sigrit playing second fiddle for most of the movie, Rachel McAdams is still one of the most talented actresses working and manages to find something real in their. In the midst of catchy music performances and accent based jokes the film finds tender moments for McAdams to nail. These are the scenes that are surprisingly effective, and much like the film’s songs, they stay with you after the credits role.
The jokes do blend with the sometimes fantastical nature of the film, but it doesn’t necessarily make them good.
As for the music what you have is probably what you expect, Ferrell’s voice somehow cohesively meshing with a pop song and even some Icelandic inspired folk songs like “Jaja Ding Dong” will have you nodding along. At one point the heroes are at a castle party, owned by Russian contestant Alexander Lemtov (played by a very funny Dan Stevens), where all the Eurovision hopefuls engage in a ‘song-a-long’ that is kind of like the “Riff Off” from Pitch Perfect (2012). Sure the scene holds as much levity as a viral video, but the moment itself is full of all different people with incredible talent, an inclusiveness that the film proudly has throughout.
Where it does begin to miss the mark is in it’s humour, something that at it’s best is pronouncing Paul Simon’s name as “semen”. Very often the movie drifts from physical humour, the aforementioned accent humour as well as a high dependency on randomness. The mystical elves that Sigrit blindly believes in kill a man, a boat of singers explodes and Demi Lovato’s burning and severed arm reaches the shore and at one point she returns as a ghost. The jokes do blend with the sometimes fantastical nature of the film, but it doesn’t necessarily make them good.
But despite having shaky humour the film seeps with positivity. It’s inclusive cast moments are wonderful, and more importantly they are earned. Too many films rush to make their films appropriate in today’s climate without really thinking of the final product, but Eurovision Song Contest sets out to be as unifying as the competition it’s portraying. Chances are this movie will be quickly forgotten, but the immediate joy you feel when watching it deserves to stay around for a while.