Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

 

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Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play a pair of hopeless Icelandic hopefuls in a funny, feel-good musical romp.

   

Eurovision Song Contest The Story of Fire Saga

Kitsch in the teeth: Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams 

 

Just as the world cannot get any crazier, a film arrives featuring Will Ferrell, Pierce Brosnan and Graham Norton. Weirder still, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an all-American comedy about a phenomenon of which Americans seem largely unaware. Native audiences are likely to miss many of the in-jokes, but that’s all part of the fun. The bearded Austrian winner Conchita Wurst in a 'song-a-long' with Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams and Netta Barzilai? A bare-chested Dan Stevens representing Russia in a homoerotic production number? It’s all here and more.

 

Making a comedy about the Eurovision Song Contest is almost cheating. It’s like poking fun at Donald Trump. Yet co-writers Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele take their premise one step further: they focus on two Icelandic losers as their protagonists. The jokes just write themselves. And it all starts so promisingly. Opening in 1974, the film introduces us to a family gathering in entertaining knitwear watching Eurovision on TV. But young Lars Erickssong is sitting on the stairs by himself, mourning the death of his beautiful, recently deceased mother. Then, on the television, he hears those naff opening lyrics, “My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender…” and he is transformed. It is Abba, representing Sweden, and Pierce Brosnan, with full beard and shoulder-length hair, is in the room. He is Lars’ father, Erick Erickssong, and ever since that fateful evening when Lars became obsessed with winning Eurovision, Erick has looked down on Lars as a disappointment.

 

Indeed, Lars is not great filial material. Cutting forward to the present day, The Story of Fire Saga finds him (Ferrell) stuck in arrested childhood and still living in the family home, still unable to commit to his childhood sweetheart, Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams). Sigrit shares Lars’ passion for entering Eurovision and she is the one with a terrific voice – as well as a misguided belief in Lars as a man worth salvaging. Of course, both Ferrell, 52, and McAdams, 41, are too old to fit the Euro standard for starry-eyed, adolescent over-achievers, but the screenplay, with a few nifty plot devices, makes allowances.

 

The joke is to see these star-crossed, middle-aged losers as timeless hopefuls dressed in ludicrous Viking apparel singing their hearts out and making snow angels in the slush. Will Ferrell, who co-produces with his professional partner Adam McKay, has never shied away from ungainly titles (cf. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). And while his new venture shares certain narrative tropes with Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is nowhere near as concise – nor as rooted in credibility. Even so, it’s wittier than one might expect and there are some delicious running gags, as well as an Icelandic contempt for Americans (it should be pointed out that both Ferrell and his co-scenarist are from the US). And Ferrell and McAdams take delight in sending up the Nordic accent (a certain folk-rock duo is pronounced “Semen and Garfunkel”). Yet even as some of the slapstick goes too far, it is not too far for Eurovision, which is itself a parody of its own excess. With so much comic ammunition – the production numbers, the costumes, the egos, the lyrics, the music – every cliché here has been polished to a gem. And with the host city being Edinburgh, the film may even be one step ahead of the game.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Graham Norton, Demi Lovato, Pierce Brosnan, Elin Petersdottir, Christopher Jeffers, Jamie Demetriou, William Lee Adams, Jamala, Conchita Wurst, Netta Barzilai, Salvador Sobral.

 

Dir David Dobkin, Pro Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum and Chris Henchy, Ex Pro Adam McKay, Screenplay Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele, Ph Danny Cohen, Pro Des Paul Inglis, Ed Greg Hayden, Music Atli Örvarsson, Costumes Anna B. Sheppard.

 

Gary Sanchez Productions/Gloria Sanchez Productions/EBU-Netflix.

123 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 26 June 2020. Available on Netflix. Cert. 12.