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“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” Will Ferrell’s comedy is saved by Rachel McAdams

Arts Review2020-7-10By: Marc Glassman

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
David Dobkin, director

Will Ferrell & Andrew Steele, scriptwriters

Starring: Will Ferrell (Lars Erickssong), Rachel McAdams (Sigrit Ericksdottir), Pierce Brosnan (Erick Erickssong), Dan Steven (Alexander Lemtov), Melissanthi Mahut (Mita Xenakis), Mikael Persbrandt (Victor Karlosson), Demi Lovato (Katia Lindsdottir), Molly Sanden (harmonizing voice for McAdams), Olafur Darri Olafsson (Neils Brongus)

Streaming on Netflix

What’s happened to Will Ferrell? Like so many Saturday Night Live alumni, he’s built up a career as the comic lead in such films as Anchorman and its sequel and Step Brothers with John C. Reilly. Lately, though, his films haven’t been as successful perhaps because his producing partner Adam McKay has moved on to adult fare like The Big Short and Vice. It’s fortuitous that Ferrell’s latest, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, was made for Netflix, allowing the comedy to be streamed immediately without waiting for it to deal with box office results.

It’s not that the film is a disaster. It has a good premise and is absolutely enlivened by the presence of Canada’s own Rachel McAdams, who makes her character of Sigrit, the singing partner of Ferrell’s Lars, into someone so likeable you wish she were in a more nuanced film. The story of Fire Saga couldn’t be simpler: they’re an Icelandic duo, who have been best friends since childhood, and are pursuing the dream of winning the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ferrell and his team missed a big chance by not having more fun with the contest, which is famously self-important and always features overblown productions. As the conceit is that every group represents a country, the contest allows for a lot of posturing from audiences, all in the name of patriotism. The iconic winning group at the Euros is ABBA, which scored their prize with “Waterloo.” A fun tune, no doubt, but certainly worthy of satire with its overly bright optimistic presentation buttressed by over-the-top production values. The big winner another year was Quebec’s Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland. Huh?

Mix Celine and ABBA and you have the sudsy pop tunes that  Fire Saga and all of the major contestants we see in the film, especially Russia’s Alexander Lemtov and Greece’s Mita Xenakis, perform in the Finals. Since Lars is so focused on the contest—and has been since childhood—and Sigrit is afraid to reveal her love for him, Alexander and Mita became the duo’s possible other love interests. Not much suspense is built up that way but there are some comic fireworks in the continual disasters that Fire Saga encounter as they try to stage their presentation through rehearsals.

Truth be told, Eurovision Song Contest is more pleasant than hilarious, probably because Ferrell seems to be sleep walking through most of the film. But happily, there is McAdams, who desperately tries to get his attention throughout the film. She certainly had mine.

Click here for more film reviews from Marc Glassman.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Classical Mornings with Mike and Jean

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