Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is charming, feel-good fun
Staring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, and Demi Lovato
Directed by: David Dobkin
Tagline: Nobody wins solo
The ongoing pandemic may have deprived the world of the Eurovision Song Contest this year, but a new Netflix musical comedy is now here to fill the void left by the campy contest’s absence.
Co-written and co-produced by its star, Will Ferrell, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga warmly captures the Pan-European competition’s over-the-top spectacle and joyous ridiculousness while telling a heart-warming tale of small-town dreamers along the way.
Ferrell plays hapless Icelander Lars who has been obsessed with Eurovision ever since he witnessed ABBA’s legendary winning entry, ‘Waterloo’, in 1974 when he was a child. His lifelong goal thenceforth has been to win the popular show, much to the embarrassment of his disapproving father Erick (Pierce Brosnan).
Supporting his ambitions, though, is his childhood friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) with whom he has a band called Fire Saga and who happens to have unrequited feelings for him.
Lars’s musical dreams seem highly improbable, which is why it comes as a complete surprise to everyone when, by the power of flukes, Fire Saga find themselves on track to represent their country at the forthcoming Eurovision ceremony.
As the underdogs progress (almost always despite themselves), each ridiculous turn finds the film amusingly paying homage to the competition that inspired it while gently poking fun at its eccentricities, backstage shenanigans, and politics. Being familiar with the contest certainly helps the viewing experience; there are cameo appearances by past contestants as well as references to others, and plenty of in-jokes that will make more sense to those who have experienced the annual extravaganza.
Even if you’ve never heard of the contest before though, you’ll still find it hard not to be invested in the goofy drama, thanks in large part to the charms of Rachel McAdams. She brings such warmth and sweetness to her role that you can’t help but root for her character. Ferrell (not the most intuitive choice for the lead, but this is a project he appears to have spearheaded after all) is likable enough as Lars; however, it’s ultimately McAdams’s talent that makes the unlikely pairing work.
It also helps that the movie’s soundtrack is a catchy, cheesy Europop triumph. The original tracks are so perfectly suited to the setting that it isn’t a stretch to imagine songs like ‘Double Trouble’, ‘Come and Play’, and the hilariously OTT ‘Lion of Love’ being performed on the actual Eurovision stage. Also, the film makes the very wise decision to not let Pierce Brosnan sing and that’s always a plus.
There are, however, several missteps on the Fire Saga trail. The journey is overlong; there are a few slow stretches and times when the tale loses momentum. And the overall take on Eurovision is more affectionate than satirical; a more skewered slant could have potentially made the wit sharper, although then we would have admittedly ended up with an entirely different movie altogether. (Some would also point out the redundancy of lampooning a competition that often seems to accomplish that very goal all by itself.)
Despite all that, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is still a whole lot of escapist fun. The film is very likely to leave you with a smile on your face, and given the kind of year we’re having, this just might be the burst of joyous silliness that this dreary summer needed.
Rating system: ★ Not on your life ★ ½ If you really must waste your time ★ ★ ★ Hardly worth the bother ★ ★ ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only ★ ★ ★ Good enough for a look see ★ ★ ★ ½ Recommended viewing ★ ★ ★ ★ Don’t miss it ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Almost perfect ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Perfection