- Nate Adams
Review: Ferrell and McAdams sporadically funny in 'Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga'
Courtesy of Netflix
The Eurovision Song Contest - an international singing competition - gets skewered in the sporadically funny “Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga,” a Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams Netflix vehicle meant to put a “Pitch Perfect” spin on the popular contest. Helmed by “Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin, “Eurovision” was no doubt invented so Ferrell could sport a sluggish Icelandic accent and jump around like the man child he’s portrayed in other comedies ala “Blades of Glory” or “Step Brothers.”
But it’s not entirely Ferrell’s ballgame, what most people will probably remember from “Eurovision” - aside from its bloated two hour runtime - is the creation of Dan Stevens’ Russian comic goofball Alexander Lemtov, who - despite the squad of hulky dancers that trounce behind him - claims he’s not gay. Stevens has tried to carve out a niche for himself and has mostly stumbled (his cartoonishly bad villain in “The Call of the Wild” comes to mind), yet the popular British actor scores big cheers with his so-bad-its-good ballad, “Lion of Love” which perfectly blends the actors comedic and singing chops.
Ferrell, who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator Andrew Steele, knows the type of slapstick and raunchy comedy his audience yearns for. In “Eurovision” he plays Lars Erickssong, an aspirational popstar from a tiny Icelanding fishing village whose been obsessed with the Eurovision Song Contest since he saw ABBA claim victory in 1974.
Considering how wound-up Ferrell is in most comedies (“Talladega Nights” being a prime example) there is no ceiling for how maniac and silly the actor can go, and “Eurovision” proves that no exaggeration is off limits. Part of that is the reason audiences show-up for the comic, because he has no shame and will do anything to earn a laugh (like intentionally stuffing his pants to make a bulge slightly bigger).
Which leaves McAdams, a charming and enthusiastic actress who flourished in comedies like “Mean Girls” and “The Hot Chick”, playing Sigrit, one half of the band Fire Saga, and the actor seems outmatched by the wild, improvisational, antics Ferrell spews constantly. Not to say McAdams can’t hang with the best of them, but her lip singing is so obvious that she doesn’t try to hide the terrible dub over her voice, meanwhile Ferrell does his own singing. You wonder how someone more up to Ferrell’s pedigree would perform in the role (Kristin Wiig or Tina Fey would have been prime candidates).
As the band Fire Saga, Lars and Sirgit are mostly booked to play covers in their local pups. But their strengths lie in the duo’s ambitious - and catchy! - original songs. “Volcano Man” - which, without question, earns the biggest laughs of the film and “Double Trouble,” the tune that gets the band into Eurovision, is the summer 2020 anthem we didn’t know we needed. How they manage to beat out eleven other, better, icelandic candidates, including presumed favorite Katiana (Demi Lovato - being a good sport), requires a serious suspension of disbelief.
From there, “Eurovision” breaks from the gorgeous landscape of Iceland in favor of Edinburgh, the city hosting the competition. It’s also where the scripts’ motives shift and doesn’t so much focus on if Fire Saga will win the competition, but if Sigrit can relay her feelings to Lars. Sadly, this subplot is total bust and, forgive the pun, never catches fire, practically throwing away 45 minutes of airtime in an effort to get the audience invested. In other words, there’s no romantic magic between the two leads.
Dobkin fills the remainder of the film with some intriguing set pieces, including a party at Lemtov’s mansion that culminates in a “song-along” - which is a mashup that consists of “Believe,” “Ray of Sunshine” and “I Gotta Feeling” to name a few. If you’re watching and wondering why this scene was awkwardly interjected into the middle of the film, rest assured you’re not alone. Another running gag Dobkin can’t resist is the constant digs at American culture, which results in Lars running into a squad of tourists and makes cracks about everything from healthcare to Starbucks.
Other supporting actors - Melissanthi Mahut, Graham North, and yes Pierce Brosnan - round out “Eurovision” and give the film a sense of credibility, helping fill the void of a thin narrative that bounces around consistently. Still, Ferrell and McAdams manage to do enough with a runtime that bleeds 35 minutes longer than it needed and your tolerance of Ferrell will be a key component in your overall enjoyment of the picture, but judging by his unapologetic and wacky performance, something tells me he already knew that.
EUROVISION: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA hits Netflix Friday June 26th