A surprisingly wonderful musical comedy.
Eurovision has always been one of the highlights of my year, never ceasing to amaze me with its unbelievable scale, distinct personality, and an odd ability to deliver top tier bops year in, year out. So, when I heard that Netflix were making a comedy based on the beloved music competition, I was excited, though not without my doubts. However, these doubts were cast aside from the outset of the film, which not only proved to be a surprisingly well produced adaptation of its real world influence, but also a marvellous, feel-good joyride, filled with laughs and a host of musical numbers; making this an experience I can't get out of my head.
The story follows Icelandic singing duo, Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams), as they seek to fulfill their dream of representing their home country of Iceland at the Eurovision song contest. Their passion for the contest is established at the start of the movie, when as children they are inspired to become musicians after watching ABBA's performance at the 1974 Eurovision song contest (and lets be honest, who wouldn't be inspired by ABBA). When the pair are selected to represent their home country (by proxy) they are ecstatic, but when the time comes to ante up, their relationship is challenged, by both the separation in how they view their future, and by the pressure of the competition as well.
The cast is spectacular, with nearly every member bringing with them a fantastic performance to their roles. Piers Brosnan, while not featured too much in the movie, is great at playing the manly, charming fisherman father of Will Ferrell's character, Lars; a role which suits the already manly and charming Brosnan. Another notable performance is that of Dan Stevens', Alexander Lemtov, who bears a strange resemblance to the late singer, George Michael. Lemtov is the contest favourite in the movie, with a very Eurovision-y song, a powerful voice, and dashing good looks. He brings a variety of comedic moments to the film, often born out of how he tries to mask his sexuality, all be it, very poorly. Stevens' character is not only an amusing addition to the film, but also a welcome one. However, the stand out character in this wacky tale has to be Rachel McAdams' Sigrit, who you can't help but love for her naïve and innocent personality, but also for how driven and talented she is as a character, bringing healthy doses of fun and triumph to the story. Additionally, Ferrell, McAdams and Brosnan all do their best to nail an Icelandic accent in the film, which, I have to say, isn't too bad, especially for acting veteran Brosnan, though for Ferrell in particular, the accent often slips.
The film rarely fails to make you laugh too, as it is dotted with big and small laughs alike; some of them predictable, and others not. The source of the movie's comedic moments vary, on one hand, you have laughs relating to the movie itself and the characters in it, from Sigrit's belief in Icelandic wish granting elves, Alexander Lemtov's "ancient" Greek statues with suspiciously erect genitals, to an excessively angry Icelandic local's obsession with the song "Jaja Ding Dong". Other comedic moments in the film come from moments where the cast takes on the inside jokes and tropes of Eurovision, which I must say, are spot on. In particular, when Lars and Sigrit go to Lemtov's party, he gives Lars and Sigrit the run down on their competition, making note of the odds of countries winning, the contestants wacky names and most importantly, the fact that despite the UK's entry being rather good, they'll get zero points because everyone hates them. Whether it be the smallest of jokes, the outlandish characters or the surreal plot, this movie is packed with laugh-out-loud moments, some of which will have you falling off of your seat.
Perhaps the best aspect of this movie, is how well it captures the essence and spirit of Eurovision, particularly in its music. When it comes to the competition, we get to see some of the other contestants performances, all of which would be right at home in the real thing. Every song feels like it has been pulled directly from the real life song contest, and serve as direct callbacks to stereotypical Eurovision entries. You have the iconic grandiose stage productions, complete with lights, fire and backup dancers, and also nearly every Eurovision stereotype, from the sexy female performer, to the slightly off the mark attempt at a rap song, to the heavy metal, head to toe, covered in monstrous makeup, outlandish rock band; a clear callback to 2006 Eurovision winners, Lordi. The film does take small liberties regarding the realism of the contest, such as the fact that the contest was hosted in Edinburgh, suggesting that the previous year the UK won the competition, which is far beyond the realm of possibility nowadays. However, this is a minor detail, and on the whole the movie makes you feel like you're watching the real thing, cringe and all; and that's something that makes this movie truly special for any Eurovision fan.
I also can't not mention the sheer quality of Lars and Sigrit's songs in the film. While the films other songs serve as representations of Eurovision's unique spectrum of talent, the songs sang by Lars and Sigrit perfectly embody the spirit of the beloved song contest. Whether it be their first song of the film, "Volcano Man" or their contest entry, "Double Trouble", the duos songs throughout the film are everything a Eurovision song should be; catchy, unique and slightly campy, and each of them would be right at home at the real thing (and dare I say it, would even have a chance at winning!). The sheer level of detail and quality put into making the movies music was well worth it, and is a significant factor in what makes this film so great.
However, I would be amiss to say the film doesn't have its faults. It has its fair share of clichés, predictability and at times some jokes just fail to land or seem out of place, but these alone aren't enough to undermine what is otherwise a great movie. The film sets out to be a fun and engaging experience, something it accomplishes despite its flaws. It is not a bad movie by any means, but its also not trying to be an Oscar nominee, so if you're looking for a fun, joyful watch, turn this on and watch it for what it is, and I promise it won't disappoint.
It goes above and beyond what it sets out to do, delivering a near perfect representation of the extravagantly kitsch contest on which its based, something which is by no means a small feat, giving Eurovision fans an experience they'll find all too familiar, and newcomers an accurate taste of what they're missing out on, making this something they won't soon forget. Chock full of funny moments, great performances and surprisingly incredible music, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga stands out as one of the most fun and feel-good movies of the year, and is one you won't want to miss.
You can watch Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga now on Netflix.