Will Ferrell has made a career out of taking relatively obscure subjects and turning them into comedy classics with his own brand of special humor injected into the film and his characters. After a string of subpar efforts like “Zoolander 2”, “Daddy’s Home” and its sequel, and the much reviled “Holmes & Watson” Ferrell needed something really special to help revitalize his credibility so once again we see him tackling an obscure topic and one he personally respects, the Eurovision Song Contest. Titled “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”, Ferrell’s latest Netflix original comedy film teams him with “Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin and co-star Rachel McAdams as Ferrell and Adams play a pair of Icelandic singers seeking success in the popular European competition that even today remains one of the most watched programs on international television. Serving as both a celebration of the show and a mockery of its many strange tropes, “Eurovision Song Contest” isn’t a perfect comedy but it’s a delightful return to form for Ferrell.
“Eurovision Song Contest” sees Ferrell and McAdams portray Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir who together form the musical duo Fire Saga with dreams of competing in and winning the Eurovision Song Contest. When a series of mishaps leave the singers as the only ones able to represent Iceland in the competition Fire Saga get a chance to make their dreams come true against unfathomable odds. As the story unfolds, we are subjected to Will Ferrell’s typical hit-or-miss comedic style. I haven’t always been a fan of Ferrell’s often childish sense of humor but there have been cases, namely “Anchorman”, “Talladega Nights” and “Wedding Crashers”, where it actually worked. Thankfully “Eurovision Song Contest” can add itself to the list of Ferrell comedies that genuinely amused me from start to finish with how ridiculous it can be but also how well it manages to inject some heart into its humor.
Ferrell and McAdams play off each other well as a will-they-won’t-they couple who may or may not be siblings thanks to Lars’ father Erick (played by Pierce Brosnan) being the promiscuous womanizer of their small town. The film leans on this creepy possibility just enough to provide some great awkward humor without taking away from the charm and charisma McAdams and Ferrell share that make them convincing love interests and musical partners. The rest of the film works the same way providing just enough humor, including some fun jabs as the over-the-top performances the Eurovision Song Contest, while also acting as a love letter to the legacy of the competition itself. While Ferrell brings his standard quirky character act to Lars, McAdams helps keep him centered with a more emotionally driven performance and the two meet perfectly in the middle. The tones don’t always blend perfectly, but it works just well enough.
The biggest problems with “Eurovision Song Contest” have more to do with its overly long story, over-dependence on clichés especially with its romantic subplot, and lack of ambition to truly set itself apart from the rest of Will Ferrell’s library. It’s still a great way to introduce people to the idea of the contest and it succeeds in balancing its heart and humor well enough to get a pass, but as a Will Ferrell comedy movie it’s not the most inventive nor is it the smoothest production and that might be more due the director than Ferrell himself. With that said, it’s actually quite amazing how these kinds of movies, all starring Will Ferrell and featuring different directors, all seem to revolve around the same exact format with similar quirks but still end up feeling like they’re doing their own thing. “Eurovision” sticks to a familiar formula but never completely feels like a retread.
Even with the fun sense of humor and heartwarming story, it’s the music and cameos that really made this movie for me. A lot of the performances featured in the contest proper are meant to reference the eccentric musical styles and productions that litter the modern history of Eurovision. Most of the songs are memorable and unique in their own right but it’s Fire Saga’s own tunes including the likes of “Volcano Man”, “Double Trouble” and the incredible showstopper “Husavik” that stand out the most thanks to a combinations of Will Ferrell’s surprisingly fitting vocals and the blending of Rachel McAdam’s voice with the immensely talented Molly Sandén. I can’t lie I’ve been addicted to the soundtrack pretty much from the moment I heard the music. Some are quirky, others are heartfelt and sincere but all of them have an addictive quality to them. The real highlight though is the Song Along where Ferrell, McAdams and Dan Stevens, who plays Fire Saga’s main competition Russian Alexander Lemtov, are joined by numerous iconic contestants from Eurovision’s past in a three-minute-plus medley of radio hits that should have any hardcore fan of the contest jumping for joy.
Like many of Will Ferrell’s films your enjoyment of “Eurovision Song Contest” strongly depends on your tolerance for Ferrell’s unique brand of humor. If you don’t like what he’s offered in the past this movie probably won’t change your mind, but for me it’s up there with his more enjoyable features. It’s familiar formula of blending heart and humor with a relatively obscure subject, while repetitive, has made for some of the comedian’s best work in the past and it’s this approach that allows “Eurovision Song Contest” to be both a ridiculously hilarious send-up of its inspiration and a loving tribute to what makes the titular competition so unique and special. In recent years Ferrell seemed to have lost his touch but I think this might be his most memorable work since “Megamind” and “Anchorman 2” complimented by great songs, a fun supporting cast and an entertaining concept that drives it all home.