Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga falls flat in some important ways. Will Ferrell’s latest is predictable and follows familiar beats to both his past works and classic underdog stories. And it never settles on a consistent comedic tone either. Sometimes it’s surreal and super silly. Other times it’s a straight forward comedy. But despite those problems Eurovision still hits a winning note. This loving homage to the annual international song competition is carried by fantastic performances, especially from Rachel McAdams and Dan Stevens. And it has more than enough heart to overcome its flaws.
Plus the soundtrack is worthy of the real Eurovision.
Eurovision follows the small town Icelandic band Fire Saga, made up of Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). Their lifelong dream is to represent their country at the annual song competition. They unexpectedly get that chance—after one of the film’s funniest moments—to finally prove to themselves, as well as Lars’ ashamed father (played by Pierce Brosnan) and their community, they can do the unthinkable and win. It’s all they’ve wanted since seeing ABBA win the 1974 Eurovision competition. (The Swedish legends are the most famous act to ever take the title… depending on how you feel about 1988 winner Celine Dion.)
Lars is completely focused on winning, much to his father’s disapproval. But Sigrit wants more from Lars. She’s in love with her partner, but he refuses to let romance ruin their chances. Their complicated relationship gets more complex after they meet the Russian entry into the competition: the wealthy, talented, and closeted “sex player” Alexander Lemtov. He’s played by Dan Stevens (Legion), a standout in the movie. He’s clearly having fun in the role, especially when performing Lemtov’s signature song. Netflix could produce a four-hour documentary about the fictional musician and it would be a must watch.
Unfortunately the script itself doesn’t have as much fun with the movie’s plot. There’s really nothing original here in terms of structure or story. This is a tried-and-true musical underdog story. The unrequited love between two lifelong friends, combined with an international stage, a lack of faith from their friends and families, and a series of costly, highly public errors on stage, results in exactly the type of redemption story you expect from this type of Will Ferrell comedy. Ferrell co-wrote it with former SNL writer Andrew Steele. Even the biggest “twist” is easy to spot immediately. There’s little doubt about where any of this is headed at any point. It’s like the movie used Pitch Perfect 2 as a template and just switched a cappella for incredible pop songs with amazing costumes.
That’s not a bad thing though, because ultimately Eurovision Song Contest works for the same reason as Pitch Perfect 2. It’s still enjoyable despite its issues. At worst the flawless ending of that film makes it eminently re-watchable. Don’t deny it. This film has a lot of heart, and most of that comes from an absolutely delightful Rachel McAdams. She’s easily the best part of the movie. Her Sigrit is the talent and soul of Fire Saga, and she keeps the movie grounded even at its most surreal.
And it is certainly surreal in certain points. Eurovision can be as over-the-top as Anchorman, but ultimately it’s more of a straight forward comedy than that. Even Ferrell is far more subdued. As a result he delivers less laughs than you might expect, but that helps the movie. He feels like a part of the whole movie and not it’s focus. Lars is a lot more realistic and human than past Ferrell roles like Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy.
The film’s inconsistent comedic voice will leave viewers wishing, especially in the first hour, that it was either way sillier or a lot less silly. You just want it to pick a note and hit it. But that unevenness doesn’t matter in the second half of the film. It all leads to a predictable-but-endearing ending, one that is sincerely joyful and emotional. Eurovision wins you over.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire and Saga‘s original songs and musical numbers are so good it should help fill the void fans of the actual competition felt when this year’s event was cancelled. (Some American viewers :raises hand: won’t appreciate all the cameos though.) Certain tracks are destined to end up on “best fictional movie songs” lists for the rest of eternity. Plus Demi Lovato is great in a small but important role.
And there are plenty of funny moments throughout. Laughs come from subtle jokes to huge gags.
Those who stay with the movie after an underwhelming first 30 minutes will be glad they did. Netflix’s Eurovision will make you feel better. You’ll enjoy the performances. But more importantly you’ll care about Fire Saga.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire and Saga comes to Netflix on June 26.
Featured Image: Netflix