“We know they’re awful, but they’re our awful.”
It simply makes sense that the long and often hilarious Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga not only embodies its gratuitous title, but embraces its self-prescribed mediocrity with open arms. This is a movie about big dreamers, made by creatives, and aimed at people who empathize with failure and who can laugh with the characters instead of pointing a finger at them. I’ve always been irritated by comedies that take the moral low road for no reason, and pretty much every step of the way, the seriously surprising Eurovision embraces kindness with a wacky sensibility. I still can’t believe it’s the best – and perhaps most earnest – comedy I’ve seen so far this year.
It should be noted that Eurovision has a bit of a rocky start, as the script could have left some baggage at the gates to make for a smoother, lighter journey. That’s more of a speed bump than a blockade though. Nevertheless, the film introduces us to Lars (Will Ferrell) and the more talented Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) as children, seguing to the two as adults presumably somewhere nearing middle age, both poked fun at by locals. Lars especially is constantly cut-down by his ashamed father (Pierce Brosnan). McAdams pulls it off easily and Ferrell’s attempt at being younger only enhances his already absurd performance. Together they are “Fire Saga”, an Icelandic duo who play at the pub, and by a minor miracle, are blindly chosen to be their country’s final contestant in the Olympics of vocal talent shows. How they make it to the big stage is even more unbelievable.
Once it gets to the eponymous and prestigious title location, Eurovision grows its wings and soars straight ahead into the madcap, outlandish pyrotechnics of Europe’s biggest singing competition. There we meet Alexander Lemtov (a delightfully over-the-top and garish Dan Stevens), who’s basically a Russian Liberace mixed with the more respectful habits of a 21st Century Lothario. He sees potential in Sigrit, whereas Lars is pursued by Greece’s representative Mita Xenakis (Melissanthi Mahut). This is when the movie manages to show all of its versatility, becoming everything we expect from a glimpse at the poster: outrageous, silly, self-deprecating. But then it grows into all the things we don’t: emotional, touching, at times even heartbreaking.
Not only do most Will Ferrell’s pictures fail to achieve the feat stated above, most modern comedies barely even scrape the surface. It’s fun to watch Ferrell when he plays big moments small, and it’s a pleasure to see McAdams solidify her place as one of the more underappreciated comedic actresses working today. Mix in a genuinely good soundtrack and director David Dobkin’s film becomes a blend of farce and the honest emotions that come from destined love and dreamers who refuse to let the critics silence their goals in life. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga definitely looks like it would be the kind of disaster that deserves to be laughed off the stage and pelted by rotten tomatoes, but that’s why you give everyone a fair shake. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised.
“Okay, so not as bad as we expected.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5