By Christian DiMartino
With the world the way it is right now, I have entered each of 2020’s straight to streaming releases with a thought: could it have been successful theatrically? Now, some of these were probably always intended to be a straight-to-Netflix deal, while others, like The Lovebirds, didn’t quite turn out the way they expected. With a title like Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga, one can probably assume that it would probably classify as one of the previous.
The movie itself works perfectly for the Netflix venue. It is not great, and often times I fought it. Yet it is thoroughly amusing, even if it might not be as good as one would expect, considering the talent involved. By the talent, I mean Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.
I’ll come out and say it, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Ferrell vehicle since… Anchorman 2? Does The Lego Movie count? Nonetheless, Eurovision (dream on if you think I’m typing that title again) is still not quite fully successful but it’s the closest I’ve come to enjoying one in a bit. The movie makes a key mistake, but more on that later. To counter that though, it also has its fair share of moments, enjoyable performances, and, to my surprise, some good music numbers.
Before this film, I was unaware that the Eurovision Song Contest was actually a thing. Well, it is, and of course Ferrell (a co-screenwriter) would attempt to take such a concept and mine it for laughs. The film, as it stands, is a one-joke movie- that joke being that a cast of totally non-Icelanders (?) speak in a goofy accent. That, and each of them dress as if they’re in the 70’s, in present day. Ferrell’s Lars grew up in Iceland, dreaming of entering the contest, much to his father’s (Pierce Brosnan) dismay. In adulthood, Lars and his lifelong friend/ possible sister Sigrit (McAdams) form a band, called the Fire Saga, and together they dream of entering the contest.
Most of their peers are aware that they’re not very good. Sigrit is convinced of a local legend involving elves that bring good luck if you leave a gift (it builds to one of the funniest jokes in the movie). Lars and Sigrit get their chance to audition, and are of course the worst of the bunch. Yet in a twist of fate I won’t reveal because its such a good one, the two of them get more of a chance and soon enter the official competition. They’re relationship is put to the test with the introduction of Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens, having a ball), a contestant from Russia, and the rest of the film follows the competition as they strive to win it.
I enjoyed the performances. I mean yes their accents are ridiculous but I know that was the point. I also, surprisingly, enjoyed the music numbers. Perhaps they were supposed to be deliberately bad, but some of them really stand out. There is a quote-on-quote “song along” sequence that is pretty well done, and McAdams (or, er, whoever is doing her singing voice) gets a really good number towards the end. Lastly, I was relieved that the Stevens character wasn’t just some forced cartoonish villain. Perhaps they were kind of going for that, but to me it went against the norm in a way. he was just cartoonish, plain and simple.
Alas though, there are one, maybe two obvious flaws. Probably more, but these kind of, sort of sink the movie. The film is thoroughly amusing, but it doesn’t grip you. In short, it often feels like too much of an “okay” thing. There are some big laughs, but a lot of small too. This would be okay if the film clocked in at, say, 80 minutes. However, it doesn’t. Eurovision clocks in at around two hours. Now, I typically have a golden rule when it comes to comedy. That being, unless it is consistently funny from beginning to end, or it has characters and a story that you genuinely care about, get in, tell your jokes, and get out in 90 minutes or less.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Lars and Sigrit, but only because of the good nature of Farrell and McAdams. The concept and story isn’t a bad one, but it does feel dragged out, and while the film isn’t unfunny, it isn’t necessarily consistently funny. Yet there is still some enjoyment to be had, even if it’s just sort of mild. Netflix probably made a good call in taking on Eurovision, because it isn’t quite worth its runtime nor a trip to the theatre. From the comfort of your living room though, it’s a pretty okay thing, and that is… pretty okay.