Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play Lars Erikssong and Sigrit Eriksdottir, an Icelandic duo who form to become Fire Saga, a below-average band who, inspired by Abba, dream of representing their country in the iconic song contest. Despite a cloud of shame from Lars’ father (Pierce Brosnan) the two continue to chase what they have always wanted and defy expectations.
In theory, a film about the weird and wonderful world of Eurovision seems like a great idea. In practice, it falls flat.
The script, co-written by Ferrell and Andre Steele, who has written for Saturday Night Live over the years, needed to be wittier and more tightly written. To put it simply, it is lazy.
What we get is a two-hour-long comedy sketch full of puerile jokes and failed attempts at showing any depth. It felt like an amateur improv show in the worst way possible.
Worse than the writing is the portrayal of Icelandic people and their culture. The whole town is full of sweater-wearing, humourless people. Lars and Sigrit are shown as dim and gullible and the latter of the two believes in elves. Relying on these stereotypes, especially when the main characters are from the group being portrayed, makes it feel like they couldn’t be bothered researching or putting effort into making three-dimensional personalities.
Its saving grace is the way it captures the true essence of Eurovision. It is clear to me that it has been made by people that enjoy the show and love it for what it is. They don’t sneer at it, they lean in and show it off as an incredibly fun and joyous time.
The musical performances are outstanding and fun, especially Dan Stevens’ performance as the camptastic Russian competitor. He goes into his role with bravado and commits fully, something that I wish we had seen more of from the other actors.
There is an obvious deal of effort put into making every performance authentic, Ferrell even confirmed that they got staging ideas and concepts directly from previous years of Eurovision.
However, this only made the rest of the film even more horrible in comparison. If they had carried that energy and care over into the rest of the writing, they would have produced something greatly entertaining.
It is clear why it was made, the idea of bringing Eurovision to wider audiences who are unaware of the spectacle would make for a great film. The Story of Fire Saga fails because it is an exhibition of failed potential.
A film this bad isn’t unexpected from the director of R.I.P.D David Dobkin but Will Ferrell has shown he is capable of more than this. Let’s hope his next film beats this one because it isn’t a very high bar.
Featured image credit: Netflix