Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga
Like one of Iceland’s vast crevasses, this film has divided opinion.
The real Eurovision Song Contest is a huge 64-year-old event ostensibly about European countries producing their best songs to promote inter-country harmony.
It achieves pretty much the exact opposite and has long been a platform for them to throw shade at neighbours by awarding them “Nul Points” regardless of song quality.
It takes itself seriously and is ripe for parody.
So it’s an odd move for this Will Ferrell Netflix vehicle to treat the music competition with such reverence.
As a comedy, this isn’t at the level of This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Best In Show (2000), Zoolander (2000) or even Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016), all of which took aim at established worlds.
Whereas previous Ferrell underdog films like 2007’s Blades Of Glory (a fine poke at figure skating) hit a sweet spot between daft and heart, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga - which is currently showing on Netflix - struggles with its identity.
Its has spikes of silliness, but it also plays like a regular underdog rom-com, while lacking the rapid laugh rate of any of the previously mentioned films.
And yet, it appears to have hit the mark.
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From the moment it was released, the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes has been far higher than the critics score. In some way, it’s like The Greatest Showman – a film that disposes with facts and logic to the chagrin of reviewers and delight of the public.
Yet, it gives a feel that someone stepped in to stop the fun.
It needs to be more nonsensical to allow Pierce Brosnan - just 15 years older and facially of equal age – to play Ferrell’s dad.
Or indeed, why Rachel McAdams’ Sigrit would be in her 50s.
At times, it feels like a jigsaw made similar but different puzzles, like there’s a version where Lars and Sigrit fall out because she’s the one with the talent, or a version where Fire Saga win with Jaja Ding Dong.
There’s also the issue with the music.
The two songs at the start – Volcano Man and Jaja Ding Dong – are in classic Eurovison style.
One is an overwrought power ballad struggling to translate into English, the other a bouncy sing-a-long that uses words so happily onomatopoeic, they are instantly seared into your brain – and you’ll only realise days later when you catch yourself singing it.
But the Eurovision songs oddly competant. Well, only the highly ridiculous Lion Of Love performed by Dan Stevens, who is great as a camp Russian rival, is allowed to hint at parody.
It’s almost as though the real Eurovision has stipulated “no silly songs” in the contest scenes.
So Fire Saga's song is no more an underdog than any real world chart hit.
The worst example of the film’s occasional humour voids is the “song-along”, essentially a mash-up of tunes sung to camera by various Eurovision luminaries – whom I suspect even regular fans would struggle to place – done with all the earnestness of a Glee musical.
Even with the inclusion of Ferrell, it is done without any irony and feels very out of place, probably because it is essentially product placement.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga is a classic case of Ferrell having some form of mid-life crisis, like so many of his films are.
It’s sweet, and in this reviewer’s case, better the second time round.
There is one unassailable fact though — that last song is an absolute belter.
It’s worth skipping to the end just for that. Or just watch it below.
FILM: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga
STARRING: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Lovato
DIRECTOR: David Dobkin
THE SKINNY: A tragic accident means that smalltown duo Fire Saga are Iceland’s official entry into the Eurovision Song Contest. But will Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (McAdams) be torn apart by the machinations of Russian entry Alexander Lemtov (Stevens)?