Maybe just maybe, Will Ferrell is losing his touch. I don’t want to be the kind of person who denigrates the work of a comedic genius, especially one who truly still has a lot to give, however, this is a far cry from Ferrell’s previous writing efforts.
Directed by David Dobkin, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a satirical comedy that centres around two Eurovision hopefuls from Iceland. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play small-town childhood friends Lars and Sigrit. Lars is the dreamer who aspires to win the song contest, and Sigrit is his loyal and significantly more talented companion. The films follows the two bumbling their way through the competition where they encounter other scheming, and similarly flamboyant rivals, but disappointingly, there is very little else to the plot.
The film leans on sincerity and the romance between the two leads, but it is a jumbled mess as there is no tonal balance in its humour. Much of the comedy is situational and solely based on the silliness of the central characters – they are well-meaning people who fail to realise that they are the butt of the joke.
Will Ferrell must be a fun colleague to work with, as he continues to pull in high calibre talent into his projects with ease. The saving grace of the film is McAdams, who is incredibly endearing to watch and oddly, the better comedic partner between the duo. She expertly balances the sincerity and comedy that the film has difficulty grasping, and if you’ve seen Game Night, you know she can also deliver on dark humour – there is a plot contrivance in the film that calls for it and she nails it. The biggest leap of faith is believing that these two are remotely the same age, despite the 12 year age gap – perhaps this is a testament to McAdams’ youthful presence that has allowed her to play Regina George in Mean Girls at age 27.
There is a musical number involving past Eurovision contestants where they come together for a sing-along. It is a vibrant and energetic moment that sees a group of extravagant individuals from all around the globe unite through their mutual love of music and glam. It is a beautiful showcase of why the real Eurovision song contest is so beloved, and yet, the scene is the antithesis of the kind of earnest sentiment the film is seemingly trying to convey. Whether it is intentional or not, this spectacle comes across as rather mocking or dismissive of the annual television event.
The Eurovision ensemble is stacked with recognisable faces. The standouts are Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov and Melissanthi Mahut as Mita Xenakis. They play conniving contestants – Stevens in particular, really leans into the bravado of his character, it’s a showy performance that is very well suited for him. Meanwhile, Mahut has a brief appearance as the Greek contestant but she does a lot with what is a thankless role. Demi Lovato lends her vocals as another Icelandic hopeful, Katiana, and is a welcome surprise. And, of course, Pierce Brosnan who has an uncanny ability to sniff out all things ABBA, plays Lars’ tough father. At least, here he is not tasked with singing and offers us an interesting Icelandic accent instead.
The songs are over the top, loud, and a ton of fun. Stevens’ baritone vocals paired with “Lion of Love” is the real standout tune of the film. “In The Mirror” is also a fantastic jam, but largely due to Lovato’s distinct vocals. Unfortunately, it seems as if the rest of the soundtrack is put on the back burner, as very few songs are awarded equally memorable performances. Nevertheless, a brief musical montage of the other contestants is a welcome reprieve.
Despite having all the components of a good comedy, the film just can’t manage to get it right. With the combination of Ferrell and Andrew Steele’s script, and the forsaken 2 hour runtime, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga fails to live up to its potential. What could have been a fun and exciting celebration of this cultural phenomenon is nothing more than a bombastic spoof. The lesson learned is that Rachel McAdams is a treasure who can do no wrong, but perhaps her people need to steer her towards better projects.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is available to stream on Netflix June 26
Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020). On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.