Given the state of the world right now, a little comedy would be the perfect antidote to distract us. And, on paper, a satire-cum-love-letter surrounding the Eurovision Song Contest starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as a duo of Icelandic popstar-wannabes desperate to win said contest sounds like a potential winner.
The reality, unfortunately, is a far different story with Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga an overly long (it runs at over 2 hours) and mostly unfunny affair, saved solely by an inherently sweet McAdams and Dan Stevens; the latter having a ball of a time as a flamboyant Russian popstar.
The story – credited to Ferrell and Saturday Night Live scribe Andrew Steele – centres on Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (McAdams), two Icelandic musicians who, after falling under the spell of Abba’s music at a young age, have formed Fire Saga. They dream only of representing their country at the Eurovision Song Contest, and thanks to a series of bizarre events (which may or may not be attributed to the mysterious elves of Iceland) they score their chance.
Given how extravagant Eurovision is in its own right, and the fact that we’ve seen films based around niche competitions succeed in spite of their uniqueness (Bring It On, Pitch Perfect, etc) – not to mention Ferrell has similarly tackled such apertures in Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights – Fire Saga should have been a far more entertaining product. The exaggerated accents and the elaborate costumes don’t need any more detailing than what the contest produces itself naturally, and the idea of having Lars and Sigrit enveloped in their own will-they-won’t-they love story makes sense, but Ferrell, Steele and director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, The Judge) are unable to streamline their ingredients; a mid-movie song-and-dance sequence featuring a parade of former Eurovision contestants speaks to this.
Depending on whether or not you can stomach Ferrell’s usual man-child shtick will also play a factor into how much you’ll enjoy something like Fire Saga, though, surprisingly, it’s a little more toned down than what may be expected given how outlandish the story is, a story that somehow devoted minutes to a bizarre side-gag involving Demi Lovato as the ghost of a charred popstar. Whatever disappointment lays within the story unable to produce consistent laughs throughout though, the sweet nature and natural comedic sensibility of McAdams makes just enough of an impression. In a film that’s mostly out of tune, her Sigrit nails every note.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is streaming now on Netflix