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Review – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga – “Some much needed easy laughs”

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Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star in a new comedy set in and around the much loved, camp as Christmas, Eurovision Song Contest. For anyone outside of Europe (and probably Australia, as it’s very popular there also), the contest is an annual televised event where competing nations throughout Europe perform songs to be voted on by juries from other competing nations. With huge viewing numbers across the continent, Eurovision boasts the almost unique achievement of being massively popular, with cult-like devotion from die-hard fans who host Eurovision parties, often dressing as their favourite acts. Some notable winners of the contest have gone onto to achieve great careers in the music industry such as Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw, and of course, ABBA.

Ferrell and McAdams play Lars and Sigrit, lifelong friends from the small fishing town of Husavik in Iceland. For most of their lives, they have dreamed of representing their country in The Eurovision Song Contest, and through a series of unfortunate events, they may yet get their chance to make their dreams come true. The plot, yes let’s call it a plot, of the film, plays like a riff on an episode of the 90s situation comedy, Father Ted. Ireland having had repeated success in the competition has to bear the cost of hosting the huge competition year after year, as the winning nation hosts the following year’s event, and so vote for Father Ted’s ‘My Lovely Horse’ to represent them, a sure way to lose.

So Lars and Sigrit travel to Edinburgh in Scotland to take part in the competition. This in itself being a joke, as this would have meant the UK had won, and ever since Brexit was a thing, the UK’s popularity has not been the greatest in the competition. Upon their arrival, they are befriended by Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, the Russian entry for Eurovision that year, who may not have their best interest at heart.

The jokes arrive at a fast pace from the beginning with varying degrees of success. Some land and some miss. The same could be said of the accents from some of the performers. Pierce Brosnan, playing Ferrell’s straight-laced father speaks with a generic northern European accent. We are introduced to him as he shouts for ABBA to be turned off from the television. No doubt the memories of his renditions of their songs in Mamma Mia! still haunt him and us to this day.

The tone of the film is one of affectionate ribbing of the contest. It lambasts and celebrates all that is loved in the camp competition, glitter-covered warts and all. The comedy really hits the target when the musical numbers start, the ridiculous props, over choreographed dancers and pyrotechnic visuals are very amusing and unerringly authentic at the same time. At points, it’s hard to tell if you are watching actual footage from the show or a gag written specifically for the film. Because of the balance between homage and send-up, the film never comes across as snarky, when it would be very easy to do so.

The performances from the two leads hit their mark, with just enough small-town innocence and charm for everyone to get behind. Rachel McAdams adds to her already formidable list of good comedy turns. She is now very much the go-to female lead in comedy. And Ferrell finally has a funny film to his credit after a series of not so funny entries of late. Unfortunately with Anchorman, Elf and even Step Brothers, his bar has been set high. The supporting cast, including many Eurovision acts from the past, are clearly having a great deal of fun. If a bouffanted and spray-tanned Dan Stevens is your thing, then look no further as he charges around the Eurovision stage with a bullwhip in hand singing the song ‘Lion Of Love’. Enough said.

With a running time of 2 hours, it is fair to say it is too long for what it is. But these days, there aren’t many films where this criticism can’t be levelled and a 90-minute movie is something of a rarity. When we are expecting 8-year-olds to sit through 3 hours solid of Avengers: Endgame, this does not seem like too much of a stretch for an adult audience.

The story is predictable, where characters and gags are painted with a very broad brush. But you are not looking to watch a Will Ferrell Eurovision film for the subtlety of character and labyrinthine plotting. If you want larger than life characters and big crude jokes, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga broadly delivers with some much needed easy laughs.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga is currently streaming on Netflix.

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