Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as a quirky Icelandic musical duo who fail their way to the top in representing their nation at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision is, at its heart, a celebration of togetherness; it’s essentially a festival of campy delights that annually gathers the wondrous and the weird together on a single stage. It’s so singularly, spectacularly strange that I’m not surprised to hear that Will Ferrell of all people is a fan. The man loves to sing! He sings in practically all of his movies, like this one, this one, this genuine belter from Casa de Mi Padre and of course this classic. He even sang at the Oscars – twice!
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga brings two of these loves together in a joyous ode to being completely and defiantly true to yourself. Directed by David Dobkin, the film follows Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell), a lovably unlucky wannabe-musician who dreams of nothing but winning the Eurovision Song Contest. The only support from his small-town home of Húsavík comes in the form of his long-suffering bestie and Fire Saga bandmate Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams), who has been in love with the oblivious Lars since they were children. Through a series of loopholes, freak accidents and government wrangling, the unlikely duo finds themselves representing their nation in the contest.
Ferrell could play the lovable man-child archetype in his sleep, and in his last few films he seems to have done just that – Daddy’s Home 2, Get Hard and Holmes & Watson all missed the mark in so many ways – but here he’s on top form (aided in no small part by an absolutely fantastic wig). Rachel McAdams shines once again in a comedic role after her hilarious turn in Game Night, and they have real chemistry – even if the film veers into fantasy by suggesting that McAdams and Ferrell could have grown up together or that she would be the one pining for him and not the other way around. Fire Saga is not quite a musical, not quite a pastiche, but its songs are enjoyable across the board. I liked that neither Lars nor Sigrit are inept musicians – the lavish music video for the extremely catchy ‘Volcano Man’ may exist only in their dreams (for now), but their songs are genuinely excellent, from the foot-tapping ‘Double Trouble’ to the sweeping ballad ‘Húsavík’.
The highlight of the whole thing is Dan Stevens having the time of his life as Alexander Lemtov, an ostentatious singer representing Russia in the contest. Not to spoil the film, but you should absolutely know in advance that there is a scene in which Stevens, wearing a gold-brocade suit and a Careless Whisper-era George Michael wig, sings a song called ‘Lion of Love’ while flanked by a group of scantily-clad hunks. You owe it to yourself to watch that in HD.
A starry medley featuring a multitude of Eurovision winners (I spotted Conchita Wurst and Alexander Rybak) is the cherry on top of a loving homage to the hilarity and exuberance of the contest. It compelled me to revisit my Eurovision favourites of yore – Only Teardrops, Running Scared, Hard Rock Hallelujah and Fairytale – and though nothing could ever beat Ukraine’s entry from 2007, Ferrell has distilled the magic of what makes a classic Eurovision act, capturing the campy charm in a way that only a superfan could.
Sometimes Ferrell’s comedies veer into the mean-spirited (Get Hard, Anchorman, Daddy’s Home) – that’s not the case here. Instead, the film affectionately teases a show which is already acutely self-aware, and gloriously proud, of its quirks. In terms of Ferrell’s filmography, it’s his most successful blend of good comedy and genuine emotional warmth since 2003’s Elf (although I have a place in my heart for both The Other Guys and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, you would be hard-pressed to call either film particularly warm-hearted).
Although it’s a shame we won’t get to witness Daði Freyr win the top spot with the immeasurably catchy ‘Think About Things’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling this year’s contest, Netflix’s endearing, fun tribute is a loving send-up of the things which make Eurovision bizarre and brilliant in equal measure. It may not be for everyone, but for me it’s the best film released in lockdown so far, and a welcome slice of escapist fun.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is currently streaming on Netflix.