Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Story: After years (and years and years) of failing to make a name for themselves on the European pop charts, Icelandic music duo Fire Saga finally gets their chance to perform on the big stage at the famed Eurovision Song Contest. 

Review: When you blend a massive, European music showcase featuring colorful performances with Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams sporting Icelandic accents and equally luxurious blonde hair, and then pepper in numerous jokes centering on the existence of elves, you’re bound to get something ridiculous out of it. That something ridiculous is EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA, which if the title isn’t a giant hint, is something where ignoring the pitfalls of the predictable, messy story is par for the course as you willfully submit to being swept away by the elaborate musical performances and abundance of pure silliness.

As two musicians who have been trying to break into the world of European pop music for decades, Ferrell and McAdams play Icelandic singers Lars Erikssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir, who together make the musical duo Fire Saga. While the duo specializes in techno power ballads that first perfectly to sweeping music videos across the frozen north – the two draped in lavish costumes – they’re stuck practicing in the basement of his father’s house (Pierce Brosnan), playing night shows at the local bar. Lars has spent years on the receiving end of his father’s disappointment, while others remind Sigrit that despite her beautiful voice (McAdams lip syncs to Swedish singer Molly Sandén), she has wasted her time chasing Lars’ dream and his affections.

Between Lars’ family troubles, Sigrit’s untapped creative potential, an unspoken romance between the two, and even a villain angle that leads to the duo making it into the famed Eurovision Song Contest after a boat explosion kills their competition, there are a lot of plot threads established in these early moments. But much of it is so threadbare that when the two do finally get whisked off to Scotland for the competition, it’s rather easy to put it all aside and focus on the chemistry of the leads and the cavalcade of colorful moments. David Dobkin — making his first feature directorial effort since the father-son drama in 2014, THE JUDGE — can't quite weave all the thematic strands together in a way that doesn't make half of it seem wasteful, but he's able to lean into the irreverence and showmanship of his stars to forgive narrative failings. 

Anyone who hasn’t been much of fan of Ferrell’s recent comedy work – mainly featuring a slew of father-figure roles that don’t make the most of his gifts – may finally find him in a welcome return to form. Also on the script with Andrew Steele, his work here reminds me of the comedies of his earlier movie career – namely BLADES OF GLORY, TALLADEGA NIGHTS or even ANCHORMAN – wherein he’s adopting an outlandish persona and playing into it with total sincerity. He sings with gusto and wears the hell out of a variety of silver garments. His work here and the movie itself may not quite stack up to some of those early works, but it’s enough to make you forget about the DADDY’S HOME movies. Taking center stage with him is the delightful McAdams, who continues her comedy excellence after last year’s GAME NIGHT. She plays off Ferrell’s absurdity as the playful, spirited Sigrit, and while not actually singing the songs, commands the stage with no less energy. In a lot of ways, the movie feels more like hers, as the emotional core feels teetered more towards her as opposed to Lars, who seems to mostly be interested in winning the competition.

But as likable and funny as their chemistry is, of all the plot threads used to stretch the movie into an unnecessary two hours, the least interesting is the romance angle that most of the story hinges on. See, while they’ve been playing music together for years and years, heading to Eurovision brings the duo face-to-face with the unspoken romantic feelings they have for each other, which means we’re supposed to want them to succeed in music as well as in love. It’s the kind of unneeded plot device that still exists because we as a society have yet to escape the thinking that two straight characters of opposing genders must not be interesting to audiences unless we think they’re going to hook up at some point. On top of that, the story takes place a whopping 46 years after the duo first started dancing to ABBA at the 1974-set intro. Even for a comedy of this caliber that is nothing short of mind-boggling when you try to think about how we’re supposed to believe McAdams is playing a character in her 50s (Ferrell is, in fact, in his 50s).

Tearing at the relationship is Dan Stevens as Russian pop star Alexander Lemtov. An interesting dynamic of the character, Lemtov is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality as a closeted gay man having to deal with Russian homophobia, but this element is curtailed so he can be the wedge between Lars and Sigrit. But, like many of the flaws in EUROVISION, it’s hard to pay them much attention when the music is cued and the colors start flashing, such as when Lemtov, who with a deep, operatic voice owns the stage with the fiery anthem “Lion of Love.” Plenty of other European acts grace the stage and a large, impromptu musical number during a party, and it’s hard not to be left with a big smile on your face from the pure energy of it all.

And it's because of that energy and sense of humor in the face of structural anomalies that make critiquing a movie like EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA seems like a mute effort; it’s not like other Netflix comedies that demand to be picked apart to help viewers avoid wasting brain cells, nor is it a groundbreaking effort that will stand as one of the year’s great comedies worthy of detailed examination. It’s a comedy with a story that’s far too cluttered at its worst and by-the-numbers at its best, featuring a bizarre sense of time. But it’s also completely inoffensive, unabashedly silly, energetic and features a few gut-busters that will ease life’s stresses for a short while. The music is big and boisterous and the cast is perfectly suited to the spectacle and the laughs, and it will ultimately pair nicely with MAMMA MIA! as yet another movie that proves how hard ABBA rules. 

Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga




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