Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (3 stars)

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Fun Eurovision celebration / spoof, co-written by and starring Will Ferrell

When Eurovision 2020 was cancelled due to Covid-19, it didn't just deprive the world of songs, it also removed some much-needed silliness from our collective schedule. Famed for its tendency toward high-camp musical productions and forays into the flat-out bizarre, the contest provides joy to the hundreds of millions who tune in. Luckily, writer-star Will Ferrell is on hand to deliver his comic take on proceedings, with a film designed as a Eurovision companion now acting as its replacement.

Directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), it's co-written by SNL scribe Andrew Steele. That the Americans would have a crack at capturing the madness is probably the most surprising element, since the US is one of the few countries not to have featured in this hardly exclusively European event. Nevertheless, it's a global phenomenon, ripe for an affectionate ribbing and the filmmakers have undoubtedly done their research.

Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as Lars and Sigrit, otherwise known as tinpot Icelandic outfit Fire Saga, rank outsiders in the country's competition selection process, who are picked to make up the numbers. Musical collaborators since childhood (the real-life age gap is blithely and humorously ignored), the pair – who are 'probably not' brother and sister – have teetered for years on the cusp of romance, though personal matters come second to Lars's fanatical desire to compete in Eurovision, an ambition fiercely disapproved of by his grumpy fisherman dad (Pierce Brosnan). However, it seems Lars is in luck when events ultimately conspire in Fire Saga's favour.

The film owes a debt to the classic Father Ted episode 'A Song for Europe' but doesn't quite follow its script. It starts from a pretty low-key place for Ferrell, with a frequently bemused and adorably eccentric McAdams better suited to the cutesiness of the small-town comedy and bringing sincerity to the emotional scenes, while Ferrell unsurprisingly comes into his own during the film's more outré moments, particularly the musical numbers.

The songs are every bit as fun as you'd hope. Although the marvellous 'Volcano Man', which appears in a fantasy sequence at the outset, is the kind of awkwardly translated insanity we wish we could vote for, Fire Saga's eventual entry 'Double Trouble' is probably closer to Eurovision reality. While Russian entry 'Lion of Love', from outrageous sex-pot Alexander Lemtov (a terrific Dan Stevens, working his eyebrows and puffing out his chest like mad), is a hoot. In fact, even more focus on the music would have been welcome.

Ferrell and co tick a lot of boxes on the Eurovision hitlist on their way to a wonderfully cheesy finale: from political voting, to Graham Norton's withering takedowns, distracting dancers, and acts called Moon Fang and Johnny John John, singing songs like 'Hit My Itch'. If a hilarious and cameo-heavy 'song-along' should delight fans, perhaps the film's greatest joke is that the UK would have won the previous year and therefore be hosting the contest in Edinburgh, although this is confusingly undermined by a nod to our tendency to get 'nul points'. Nevertheless, in its OTT moments more than anything, it eerily resembles the real thing, and when it cranks up that lunacy it's the perfect tonic for our times.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 26 Jun.

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Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 2h 3min
  • 12
  • Directed by: David Dobkin
  • Cast: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Graham Norton, Demi Lovato, Pierce Brosnan
  • UK release: 26 June 2020

Aspiring musicians Lars and Sigrit are given the opportunity to represent Iceland at Eurovision.