Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga reminds me of a couple of other Will Ferrell projects: A Deadly Adoption, The Spoils of Babylon, and Casa de mi Padre. Each of these is a project that hopes to tap into a very specific kind of sub-genre/niche audience. Some have been successful and some haven’t, but they all feel like jokes that you have to be in on to totally get. If you aren’t tapped into that wavelength, they never click.
And that’s where I have to admit some ignorance or at the very least non-interest in Eurovision itself. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is clearly taking advantage of having access to the official program and all the extravagant production it entails. In doing so, it’s a very clear love letter to people who adore the competition. If you love Eurovision, this will shower you with fun cameos and over-the-top production numbers. You’ll get what you came for.
However, that’s not all that succeeds in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The parody songs are all cute and silly, and cinematographer Danny Cohen (Les Misérables, Room) makes this flick look like a billion dollars. It’s impressive in a way most of these comedies aren’t.
The standouts of the cast are Rachel McAdams and Dan Stevens. McAdams locks into her sweet but smothered sidekick role and it ends up being her movie more than it is Ferrell’s. She’s the secret heart of the film and the movie works on an emotional level when it’s focused on her and the conflict she faces. and Dan Stevens is a camp riot as the rich Russian contestant that seems to be wooing McAdams away from Ferrell. Stevens is so good that I almost wish he had played Will Ferrell’s part.
Because Will Ferrell is the biggest distraction in the movie. He wrote and produced Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, and it’s clear that he did so with the intention of playing the lead role of Lars, the determined but inept Icelander whose only dream is to win Eurovision. Ferrell is miscast and never feels at place in the frame with all the other actors. It makes the whole endeavor come off as a vanity project for a guy having a mid-life crisis. It also feels like Ferrell is off his comedy game here. It’s a shame because he’s a true talent, but the role and the actor never meet in the way they need to.
And that distraction only serves to highlight how boilerplate the actual script of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is. This is a well-worn story with no real surprises in store on a story level. You know exactly how every beat is going to land. That’s especially damning for comedy, a genre that relies on the unexpected in order to deliver laughs. It’s not that the movie is totally lacking in chuckle-worthy moments, but they are few and far between and almost always come from the actors’ delivery instead of the story or the writing.
If Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was able to take just a few left turns, it could have been something really worthwhile. Instead, it plods through its two hours with almost no creativity in the story or plot. Thankfully, a few fun performances and stellar cinematography make it a pleasant if passable experience. It’s just a real shame that Ferrell wasn’t able to step out of the limelight and cast a better actor as the co-lead. Weirdly, this ends up echoing the actual arc of the movie itself.
If the movie didn’t have Ferrell at the forefront, there’s a chance it could be significantly better. Instead, Eurovision Song Contest is likely to get filed away with the other niche parodies Ferrell has been a part of. It will have its fans but they will likely be very small in number.