'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga' Review: Netflix comedy is off-key but shines with its music
Spoilers for 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga'
The highly anticipated Netflix comedy film 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga' dropped on Friday, June 26. With comedic legend Will Ferrell and the multiple-award-winning Rachel McAdams taking the helm of their starring roles, the film centers around the annual Eurovision Song Contest, which was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since it began in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest sees participants representing primarily European countries, performing original songs, and votes from the participating countries are used to determine the winners. Past winners have included several high-profile artists such as ABBA and Celine Dion.
For 'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga', Ferrell personally attended the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 and interacted with contestants and crew for his research. He eventually announced that he would co-write, produce and star in a film inspired by the show. The film opens in 1974 to the childhood home of Ferrell's character Lars Erickssong in Iceland. Family and friends gather around a television set, which is airing the Eurovision Song Contest. We see a depressed Lars, who has lost his mother, sitting on the staircase as Abba sings 'Waterloo' on the TV. The opening scene effectively underlines the film's major spirit as Lars' father (played by Pierce Brosnan) shows both concern and shame over his son who sprung up in front of all the guests to sing and quirkily dance along to Abba.
A sense of threat comes when Demi Lovato's Icelandic character, Katiana Lindsdottir, makes an early appearance and sings right before Lars epically fails his performance on an Icelandic song contest leading up to the Eurovision contest. Certain gags, like Lovato's character dying after a boat which held the after-party exploded, add to the shock value of the jokes, but it's hard not to notice that the humor is slightly off-key. It is essentially slapstick and at times goofy, but the humor prods are found more in Ferrell's facial expressions and earnest yearnings for musical success. As the film proceeds further, its comedy/serious ratio of tilts more towards the serious. The film makes many efforts to let audiences giggle, with several moments you may laugh out loud, but it dips too low in the drier moments. Although, like many tales of the underdog (in this case, with a lead character who is also trying to win the approval of his father), the film shines in its warmth. More importantly, like any film about a rising singer, it is lifted by its musical moments. Like sprinkled gems, the music performances from each contestant and our heroes spring in at just the right points, and you're left with an uncontrollable grin each time. For duets with Ferrell and McAdams, we are also left breathless as they sing perfectly together, worthy of large applause and getting us wanting more.
The soundtrack and performances capture both the traditional sounds of Europe as well as the glitz, glamor, and eccentrics of the Eurovision contest without coming off as offensive. This is also where the film falls short, as it feels as if the American comedic take on Europe tip-toes around being too offensive: probably the reason behind its more affectionate style of humor. It is important to remember it is a fictional story and any joke at the expense of its fictional characters should be aimed at said characters, without associating the humor to the mockery of an entire continent.
'Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga' is not for everybody, but recommended for those who love the flair and energy of the Eurovision Song Contest as well as for those wanting a lighthearted taste of European culture.