Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
dir David Dobkin
scr Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele
prd Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum, Chris Henchy
with Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Demi Lovato, Jamie Demetriou, Natasia Demetriou, Joi Johannsson, Graham Norton
release US/UK 26.Jun.20
20/UK Netflix 2h01

stevens brosnan olafsson

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mcadams and ferrell
Frankly, a comedy about Eurovision can never be as funny as the real thing. And this script never really tries, relying mainly on simplistic jokes about rural Iceland. Gently amusing with great music and the occasional laugh-out-loud moment, it's an overlong mix of goofy slapstick and pushy sentimentality. A more original narrative would have helped, but this one sticks to the usual beats without that badly needed key change.
In an Icelandic village, Lars and Sigrit (Ferrell and McAdams) are probably not siblings but share an obsession with cheesy pop, They've always wanted to compete at Eurovision, much to the embarrassment of their fisherman father Erick (Brosnan). Through a fluke of selection and a rather grisly tragedy, they find themselves heading to the semifinals in Edinburgh. But competitors from Russia and Greece (Stevens and Mahut) distract them with flirting and parties. This leads to questions about what Lars and Sigrit want out of this competition, not to mention various backstage shenanigans and on-stage catastrophes.
Eurovision fans will enjoy pointed references, witty nods and familiar tunes, even if the satire is too soft to be satisfying. For example, Norton's commentary is funny, but mild compared to the real thing. The film's best weapons are musical numbers that fabulously play on the contest's absurdities. The national entries are never crazier than the real thing, but Russia's Lion of Love is classic, and there's also an awesome mashup of Cher, Madonna, Celine and of course Abba sung by a mob of Eurovision royalty.

Ferrell and McAdams have fun with their rather thinly written roles, adding clever twists into their chemistry to make up for weak backwoods-hick gags and shallow histrionics. The surrounding cast members gleefully add ludicrous flourishes. Stevens is hilarious as the louche Russian, while Brosnan provides corny gravitas in his scenes, coldly dismissing his idiot children, but secretly proud of them. And while American audiences won't spot the cameos, Europeans will love them.

Made with the cooperation of Eurovision itself, the pastiche can't be too harsh. So the character comedy should have been more wickedly funny. Ironically, this fictional 2020 contest turns out to be the only Eurovision we'll get, so perhaps it's worth putting up with the screenplay's odd lack of logic (a mobile phone would eliminate the plot's contrived central crisis). Because even if it's a missed opportunity, there are some enjoyably silly moments scattered throughout the movie, and the songs are worth celebrating.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 26.Jun.20

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