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As of late, Netflix have struggled to release original movies that have genuinely connected with viewers, with much of their content underwhelming. Saying that, every once in a while, the streaming service will get behind a project that simply entertains and nothing more – something viewers can simply sit down and watch without having to stress their minds after a hard day’s slog at work. Netflix’s newest comedy addition, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is that movie.
Born from Will Ferrell’s fascination with Sweden’s obsession (particularly his wife) for Eurovision, the comedy tells the tale of two aspiring musicians named Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). They somehow stumble upon the opportunity of a lifetime to represent their beloved Iceland on the big stage. What begins as possible embarrassment soon turns into Iceland cheering on its lovable, quirky duo.
Eurovision is exactly what you would expect from a Will Ferrell comedy. Beginning with a backstory of Lars’ obsession with the Eurovision Song Contest as a young kid, Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin’s tale embraces the utterly ridiculous. It progresses like some sort of twisted amalgamation of Ferrell’s ice-skating centred Blades of Glory and The Lonely Island’s hugely underrated Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It probably shouldn’t work due to how silly it is, yet it does surprisingly well.
Embodying likable characters that are easy to root for, Ferrell and McAdams add heart and soul to Eurovision, helping the film not fall flat like many of the former’s recent more mean-spirited comedic clunkers. McAdams, who has taken on many successful comedy roles in the past such as Mean Girls and Game Night, commits herself whole heartedly to the fun. Coupled with Ferrell’s typically hilarious antics, the two make an unusually strong duo that you can’t help but become invested in.
A plethora of talented supporting performances also strengthen Eurovision. There’s a scene stealing turn from an unrecognisable Dan Stevens (The Guest, Apostle) playing a flamboyant singer representing Russia. Meanwhile, former Bond Pierce Brosnan gives a memorable performance as Lars’ father who at first believes the Eurovision Song Contest to be a laughing stock – only to gradually understand his son’s passion.
In much the same vein as the aforementioned Popstar, Eurovision is choked full of cameos from a number of notable comedic/musical forces including Graham Norton, Demi Lovato and even actual Eurovision song contest winners Conchita Wurst and Netta Barzilai. All these appearances add a layer of winking humour, while also giving this goofy light tale an air of authenticity.
Eurovision works strongest when embracing its campy musical set-pieces. Around the halfway mark, there’s a truly ridiculous medley of Abba’s ‘Waterloo’, Cher’s ‘Believe’, Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’, Celine Dion’s ‘Ne Partez pas sans Moi’ and The Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feeling’. While in lesser hands, it would derail another comedy flick, here it works as a spoof of more serious music-centred films.
It’s not all good though. At over two hours, Eurovision is far too long for what it is and tethers the line between over-the-top parody and genuine emotional pathos far too often. A number of sub-plots fail to carry the dramatic weight they wish to, while also subtracting from the jokes – which occasionally fall flat too.
But for what it’s worth, Eurovision is easily Will Ferrell’s best movie in years, probably since 2014’s The Lego Movie. Here’s hoping Netflix don’t milk an unnecessary sequel from its inevitable popularity, a fate which seems to doom a number of Will Ferrell’s best comedies. I’m looking at you Anchorman.