Coronavirus has made sure that Eurovision doesn't kick off this year, but fans of ESC pop can thankfully sate their hunger for cheesy pop by watching Will Ferrell's newly-released Eurovision saga on Netflix. If you haven't heard of the film, it features Ferrell's Icelandic loser persona Lars Erickssong who dreams of winning the Eurovision Song Contest alongside his bandmate Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams). The story of the band Fire Saga is not just about the song contest itself, it's also a love story told of two enthusiastic songbirds who find themselves in a web of unanswered love and confusion as the sexy Eurovision life lures them in with glittery temptation. Will Lars win Eurovision? Is the world ready for Iceland's entry? Will Lars learn that there are some things more important in life than winning?
This is a typical "by the numbers" story that we've heard many times before, so it's not exactly hard to follow or even foresee where the plot is going once the relationships and conflicts are established. We know what's going to happen with the sceptic dad, the village that's ashamed of its ESC entry, and the love triangle, but in a comedy such as this, it's not a huge deal to have all the cards laid out in front of you as long as it offers laughter (and regarding the Eurovision aspect, it's been captured splendidly in this film). As expected, the new Euro-pop comedy is as much a parody as it is a celebration of the contest itself, where loud Ferrell humour and crazy performances are mixed with guest appearances and star-spangled glamour. Amongst the more parodied characters, we find Loreen, Netta, Conchita Wurst and Jessy Matador (to name a few) in the film's most extravagant scene, where both fictional and well-known songbirds offer viewers a fantastic pop medley.
Despite this, I can't really offer my twelve points to the humour. If there's one thing the Eurovision comedy would have benefitted from, it's more eccentric performances. Among the murder plots, Icelandic elves, and talking reflections, most are reduced to bad penis jokes and Swedish chef impressions. Characters such as Mikael Persbrandt's bank director falls to the back of the line and there's a pointless ghost story in the film that didn't have to be there. The same goes for the film's first dramaturgic low-point that could have been cut without anyone missing anything. I expected a more 'Zoolander' vibes due to how much potential lies in parodying the spectacle of the ESC, but other than some lame costumes and funny song lyrics, there isn't much beneath the shiny surface. Dan Stevens is funny as the hyper-sexual Russian though, singing the fantastic song 'Lion of Love', but apart from this, the narrative leaves much to be desired.
I also feel like I've grown bored of Will Ferrell's loud character. The fact that women seem to inexplicably fall for this frustrating middle-aged man might have worked in comedies such as The Other Guys, but with McAdams' character and the Greek Eurovision goddess (played by Assassin's Creed Odyssey's Melissanthi Mahut), it just feels off. Jokes are being made regarding Ferrell and McAdams giving off a "sister-brother" vibe and it would, in all honesty, have worked a lot better. There's no romantic chemistry in the pair's relationship and it's just not believable. Ferrell wore through his comedy genius a long time ago and he just doesn't bring the same star power to the show as he used to a decade ago.
The film is charming though, and even though the love story is thin and predictable, it falls into the sentimental traditions of Eurovision, after all. It's stupid, it's over-the-top, it's shallow and it's colourful, which is all ESC fans need in these trying times.