The Reel Deal – By Dedra Cordle
It is estimated that more than 600 million people tune into the Eurovision Song Contest each year and yet this international event barely makes a blip on this side of the pond.
You could make an argument that the lack of interest is due to the lack of North Americans in this primarily European singing competition but viral clips of the musical acts show that this is something Americans would probably like to see. It has acts that showcase pop music, rap music, country music, heavy metal music, folkloric music and what did I just hear? music. And if that is not enough of a lure, each singer and band bring their own flair, and sometimes actual flares, to the mix. It is a virtual smorgasbord of entertainment and opportunities to be entertained and yet it passes by like a one-hit wonder on the billboard, which coincidentally most of the winners turn out to be.
In the past couple years, more attention to this competition has been paid in the states but this was the year it was supposed to blow up due to the prevalence of interest in international bands. To coincide with the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest, Netflix was set to release its own loving spoof with Will Ferrell starring and writing to boot. But then the novel coronavirus happened and put a halt to those plans and the singing competition itself, the first since its founding in 1956.
Rather than push the movie back to 2021 when hopefully live events can be held and with an actual audience rather than cardboard cutouts, the streaming service decided to release it as scheduled to fill the void. As someone who has consumed this event through helpings of pop culture, it didn’t necessarily fill the Eurovision loss but it did bring some amount of joy through its sheer stupidity.
Make no mistake about it, “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” is stupid but it’s the kind that burrows deep enough into you to make you forgive it for being so dumb.
Ferrell, whose outlandish mannerisms are more muted here, plays Lars Erickssong, a middle aged man who still carries the childhood dream of being a musical star. Since watching ABBA perform on the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, he has made it his mission to compete and win at the international competition despite having little vocal talent. Even with this minor inconvenience, he makes it his life goal to get there, mainly to rub it in the face of his disapproving father Erick Erickssong (Pierce Brosnan).
Fed up with life and his station in it, Lars decides to throw caution to the wind and submit his latest effort “Double Trouble” to the Icelandic Song Contest with the encouragement of his bandmate, childhood friend and potential love interest Sigrit (Rachel McAdams).
Due to a random selection by the ISC committee, Fire Saga is chosen to participate in the showcase that determines which act makes it to Eurovision. This announcement does not please Lars’s father as he feels his son will make a laughingstock of him and the nation.
During their televised performance, Lars does just that and with that pitiful performance comes the realization that he will never attain his long desired dream. But then, due to a random accident that results in the deaths of their competition, Fire Saga is selected to perform at Eurovision by default. This announcement too does not please Lars’s father as he feels his son will make a laughingstock of him and the nation on the international stage.
When the duo step foot in Scotland to prepare for the song contest is the moment where the film finds its stride. Not only does it introduce us to interesting side characters like snarky announcer Graham Norton (playing himself) and Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens), a Russian smolderer who is the favorite to win with this song “Lion of Love,” but it introduces us to so many throw away backhanded comments and compliments. It’s one of those films that you could find new things to laugh about with each viewing.
But the real humor (and later heart) comes with the performances and interactions of Fire Saga as they try to navigate this new landscape and their feelings for each other. Some moments will have you puzzled, others rooting for and against the pair, and some will have you crying with laughter.
There are many who are on the fence with this movie due to exhaustion for its male star but as I said earlier Ferrell is much more toned down for this role. It could be because his character is mellower but he allows room for his female co-star and the secondary characters to develop and shine as well. And they do.
Though humor and taste are always subjective, I found real enjoyment from watching “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.” It is a playfully stupid film filled with good and bad music, big and small laughs, terribly cheesy graphics and a real love for this wonderful and wonderfully weird competition. I’m not sure if it will get more people interested in the actual competition, but if you’re looking for a good time at the (home) theater, this might be the movie to see.
Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.