“Good evening Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga, thank you for a wonderful show. Here is the verdict from the Flickfeast judges!”
The latest Netflix Originals film features Will Ferrell as Lars, an Icelandic man whose sole dream in life is to win the Eurovision Song Contest and prove himself to his incredibly handsome father (Pierce Brosnan). Through a series of bizarre accidents, Lars and childhood friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) aka Fire Saga are selected to be Iceland’s entry and the stage is set for them to overcome the odds and pick up an upset victory.
Unlike Lars, the UK has always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Eurovision. We love to watch it and take the mickey out of it. The rest of Europe hates us and regularly gives us “Nil Points”.
Perhaps it was one of the reasons the UK voted to leave the European Union. A misguided attempt to avoid the continual embarrassment of having to enter and ending up in last place.
So when it was announced that Will Ferrell was producing a comedy about the song contest, audiences were probably expecting a movie that would mock and satirise the show similar to how Graham Norton does every year during his acerbic commentary.
The format is ripe for a Christopher Guest Best In Show-style comedy however the end result is more of a feelgood underdog story a la Cool Runnings or Pitch Perfect.
Which is odd, given how much ridiculousness is within the story. For example, the film begins with a young Lars & Sigrid watching ABBA win in 1974 which would make them around 52-54 when they enter the contest in 2020.
Then there is the setting of the contest in Edinburgh, Scotland. As mentioned in the film, the winning country must host the following year’s contest. This means that the UK must have won the previous show. Which anyone would tell you stretches the realms of plausibility, even for the movies! It could be an alternate universe where Scotland won the Independence vote and entered The Proclaimers as their own act. Plus don’t get a Scot started on the geography of Edinburgh which involves the SSE Hydro located just off the Royal Mile, even though it is in Glasgow…
When it goes big, it goes big. No more so than in Dan Stevens as lusty Russian lothario Alexander Lemtov, whose performance in pitch perfect. Yet given the fact that actor and co-writer Ferrell is himself a huge fan of the contest, it is more of a warm, affectionate tribute to the singing competition.
Much like the contest itself, one might go into the film full of scorn and scepticism. However it is nigh-on impossible not to become swept up in the sheer enthusiasm it has for its subject. Just try not to join in during the Song-A-Long featuring cameos from past Eurovision singers (no, we didn’t recognise them all either) and a mash up of “absolute bangers” like Believe, Ray Of Light and Waterloo.
Ferrell plays his usual brand of kind-hearted loser but the main reason for the film’s success, is Rachel McAdams. Following on from Game Night, she showcases her comedy chops but it is her earnestness and warmth that shines brighter than the Northern Lights.
Of course, no Eurovision movie would be complete without some cheesy songs. While it does poke fun at the varying genres and performances you see each year, the songs overall are catchy. They are easily better than anything the UK has entered since Gina G’s Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit in 1996. Could we see Double Trouble or Lion Of Love performed at next year’s Oscars? Who knows.
A film featuring Will Ferrell performing a musical number in order to save a big event? It could only be the F*cking Catalina Wine Mixer… wait, the F*cking Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga. While not quite a winning entry, it certainly would not score nil points. Guaranteed to put a big, warm smile on your face and that is just the type of film we need right now more than ever.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga is available to stream on Netflix from Friday 26th June.
Director: David Dobkin
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens
Runtime: 123 mins