EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA -- A Silly but Hilarious Musical That Puts Will Ferrell Back in His Element
Review by Sean Boelman
Both a love letter to the eponymous talent show and a parody of the excessive theatricalism that goes into their production, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is the very definition of over-the-top, but it’s a total joy to watch nevertheless. Featuring Will Ferrell at his best in years, this is dumb and hilarious fun with a surprisingly effective emotional core.
The film follows an Icelandic singing duo prone to failure as they are chosen to represent their country in the Eurovision Song Contest, the biggest music competition in all of Europe. Although the particulars of Eurovision will be unfamiliar to most American viewers (apart from the fact that it birthed the fame of a few popular groups, such as ABBA), audiences will feel comfortable with the underdog tropes.
One can’t accuse The Story of Fire Saga of being particularly original — numerous underdog stories use a talent show as their central event — but there is still something extremely charming here. Even at just over two hours, the movie never outstays its welcome, keeping the laughs going and the music flowing.
Similarly, although the arcs of the characters are pretty telegraphed, they manage to have a strong emotional impact. Viewers will buy into the protagonists’ ambitions, and even when the beats start to feel a bit more forced, the phenomenal chemistry between Ferrell and his co-star Rachel McAdams keeps the film afloat.
Ferrell and McAdams are great here, but it is the supporting cast that really shines here. In a scene-stealing role as a flamboyant Russian playboy popstar, Dan Stevens is the highlight of the movie. He seems to be the cast member most dialed into the absurdity of the whole situation, giving a performance that is thoroughly enjoyable. Others, such as Pierce Brosnan, Demi Lovato, and Mikael Persbrandt give memorable turns as well.
And of course, there are some memorable original songs written for the film. The two catchiest — “Double Trouble” and “Jaja Ding Dong” — come from the Ferrell-McAdams duo (with McAdams’s vocals supplemented by Swedish pop singer Molly Sandén), but the more objectively strong is their emotional “Húsavík (Homeland)”, which will give viewers chills. Also excellent are “Lion of Love” (Dan Stevens’s song performed by Erik Mjönes) and “In the Mirror” (for Demi Lovato).
Visually, the movie is at its best when it goes all-in on the musical numbers. The production design in the Eurovision performances offers exactly the type of spectacle one would hope for, especially in the “Double Trouble” scene. That said, the single best scene in the film features a group performance from all the contestants in a mansion, reminiscent of one of the most fun scenes in the Pitch Perfect movies.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga isn’t going to make waves, but it’s legitimately funny and offers the distraction that we need so desperately right now (fitting, given that this is why the Eurovision Song Contest was created in the first place). It’s nice to see Will Ferrell back in his element again with a goofy and exaggerated character after trying to be more grounded in recent efforts.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga hits Netflix on June 26.