Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga

Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams co-star in this overlong, overly awkward comedy that proves just about as tawrdry as Eurovision itself.

Made with the assistance of several key Eurovision-related organisations, this was meant to coincide with this year’s celebrations, before the whole thing was cancelled for all-too-familiar reasons, and now it’s been released to Netflix as a would-be-sweet gesture to wailing fans out there going through Eurowithdrawal.

We open in Húsavík, Iceland, back in 1974, and watch as young Lars Erickssong (here played by Alfie Melia) is turned into a Eurotragic by – what else? – ABBA’s epochal performance of Waterloo. Poor Lars, who’s already grieving for his late Mum, is then nastily mocked by his grumpy Dad Erick, as played with a moderately convincing accent (and a little genuine Icelandic) by the otherwise very Irish Pierce Brosnan.

A pattern is set and, many years later, Lars has grown up to look just like very American co-writer and co-producer Will, and he hopes dearly that one day he will win Eurovision with not-quite-girlfriend Sigrit Ericksdottir (the Canadian Rachel) and their band Fire Saga, who we see perform in a fantasy sequence straight out of the 80s hair-metal playbook. Erick and most of the townspeople don’t support these dreams at all, perhaps because Lars is quite obviously over 50 and not exactly bursting with talent, and yet he and Sigrit nevertheless enter the preselection in Söngvakeppnin. And (no spoilers necessary) it’s a disaster.

However, in the most ludicrous fashion imaginable, Fire Saga wind up as Iceland’s Eurovision entry for 2020 anyway, and fly to Edinburgh where oodles of drawn-out shenanigans transpire as Sigrit is targeted by slimy Russian favourite Alexander Lemtov (the English Dan Stevens) and Lars is tempted by Greek crooner Mita Xenakis (Melissanthi Mahut). And, to fill in time (because director David Dobkin thinks we have heaps of it), this suddenly turns into a proper musical with a shamelessly goofy singalong medley of chintzy hits performed by McAdams (well, actually a synthesis of her and Swedish singer Molly Sandén’s vocals) alongside a gaggle of former Eurovision winners, more than a few of whom have fallen into (deserved?) obscurity.

There are silly subplots aplenty (including Lars being haunted by the ghost of Iceland’s Katiana, as portrayed by no less than Demi Lovato), and they all combine to drag this all out to two-ish hours, when it should have been a nimble 85 minutes. And surely Will is the guy to blame because no one had the guts to tell him to sit down and shut up.

But what do Eurovision fans, who do take things extremely seriously indeed, think of it? Well, like Star Wars diehards, it would seem that they’re pretty much split down the middle, with some adoring the thing simply due to its endless Eurovision-ness and other despising it for daring to poke fun at Eurovision in any way, shape or form. But what did Ferrell and Co. expect?

Viewers of ABBA musical Mamma Mia! will be relieved to note that, at least, Pierce Brosnan wasn’t coaxed into singing.

Reviewer Rating

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga (M) is now streaming on Netflix

DM Bradley

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