Watching EUROVISION has become an international tradition, a guilty pleasure for the whole family to indulge in annually, as we see relatively average artists belt out cheesy viral bangers to win. Seems ripe for a satire. But this Will Ferrell comedy is not THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984). It’s not even his own TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY (2006). Instead, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST:THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (2020) kind of enjoyably emulates the show it’s based on: it’s corny, heartfelt and full of awfully memorable songs.
The film follows long-term friends Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) who, despite protests from all over, form the Icelandic duo Fire Saga in the hopes of competing at Eurovision. Due to some predictably ridiculous hijinks, the clumsy collaborators find themselves performing on the biggest stage. But come on, it is a comedy, it’s going to go down like fireworks at a funeral.
That’s comedy? Hit and miss. THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA has some bright points, particularly with one explosive scene that turns into a running, consistently funny gag involving Demi Lovato’s Katiana. Then there’s Will Ferrell’s expressions and overall look that tickle the funny bone as they always do (Ron Burgundy will forever be his finest example). But for all of that, it does resort to genital jokes and yelling contests when it’s struggling for fresh material; for me, it’s just a weak way of getting a laugh.
The actors give it their all though. Ferrell, as we’ve already mentioned, brings all of his over-the-top energy with an ABBA-appropriate mullet to boot. McAdams almost steals the spotlight as the sweet, plucky Sigrit, with her superstition over Icelandic elves inspiring one of the film’s best comedic curveballs. Yet it’s Dan Stevens that takes centre stage, playing the Russian singer Alexander Lemtov like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. He’s camp, flaunts his fame and fortune, and barks his song ‘Lion of Love’ like an 80s rock/romance ballad. And he’s the best bit of the film.
Director David Dobkin (WEDDING CRASHERS (2005)) doesn’t have to push for any fancy camerawork in this: cinematographer Danny Cohen does what he has to, giving the stage performances an appropriately vibrant feel, but keeping it all up-close during the dramatic moments. The story’s structure does feel identical to Ferrell’s BLADE OF GLORY (2007) however, another competition-focused film.
But that’s exactly what I’m saying about the film – it really isn’t and should never have been some game-changing mockumentary. If you break the title down, THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA is the weakest part of the whole. Yes, it’s a sweet success story, but ultimately, you’ll forget about its conclusion an hour later.
Instead, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST is the key part of the title because it tells you all that you need to know. So, come for the corny dance choreography, the cameos from EUROVISION contestants past and the laughable lyrics. Heck, Graham Norton even makes a welcome appearance.
If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll find a likeable tribute in this film. For everyone else, embrace the basic inside of you if you want to get anything from THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA. That and Dan Stevens, who chews through the scenery and spits it back out with a hint of vodka.