What could’ve been a raucous, wild comedy is instead let down by its timidity, generating only sporadic laughs. What a shame, writes Wenlei Ma.
What could’ve been a raucous, wild comedy is instead let down by its timidity, generating only sporadic laughs. What a shame, writes Wenlei Ma.

New Netflix movie is limp and forgettable

MOVIE REVIEW

Will Ferrell makes a certain kind of movie and as goofy and funny as some of those are, there are also many misses. For every Anchorman there's a Get Hard.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga belongs squarely in the miss column.

Suffering from a case of timidity, the Ferrell and Rachel McAdams vehicle, dropping today on Netflix, is occasionally worthy of a chuckle but there's not enough wackiness to fill out its overlong 123 minutes of runtime.

This is a movie that drags - never what you want for a comedy.

Ferrell plays Lars, an Icelandic man with dreams of winning Eurovision ever since he was a kid and saw ABBA lighting up the stage in the 1974 contest.

Sigrit (McAdams) is Lars' best friend and creative collaborator, and probably not his sister. Together they are Fire Saga, a pop duo whose most requested song from their local townspeople is a little ditty called Ya Ya Ding Dong.

When, through a cassette audition tape and a couple of freak turns, they find themselves in Edinburgh as Iceland's entry into Eurovision, Lars and Sigrit must discover what is really important to them.

Eurovision Song Contest could’ve been much wackier Credit Jonathan Olley/Netflix
Eurovision Song Contest could’ve been much wackier Credit Jonathan Olley/Netflix

You know Eurovision Song Contest gripes when you immediately notice that the time-jump from 1974 to present day doesn't line up, unless we're meant to believe that McAdams can pass for 50 years old (she really, really can't) or that Pierce Brosnan is realistic as Ferrell's father (only 15 years separate them).

They're small details that would've fallen by the wayside and easily forgiven if Eurovision Song Contest had the charm to bring you along on its ride.

Instead, the time discrepancies fester every time the movie lags - which is a lot, by the way, so be prepared to have many exasperated mutterings of "but he's way older than her, there's no way she's 50, ugh, what is this timeline?!".

There are jokes about stuffed unitards, "classic" camel toes and murderous elves, but the laughs are sporadic and never really build a momentum - unless you count how Brosnan's Icelandic accent increasingly slips into an Italian one.

Dan Stevens and his gold outfits are the standout Picture: Jonathan Olley/Netflix
Dan Stevens and his gold outfits are the standout Picture: Jonathan Olley/Netflix

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It takes about 30 minutes before the first properly funny scenario is presented: Dan Stevens in a gold lame shirt and gold brocade coat gyrating on stage as Russian singer Alexander Lemtov, singing a ridiculous operatic pop ballad called Lion of Love.

Stevens as Lemtov is the standout in Eurovision, a movie that manages to be both slickly over-produced and scrappily messy at the same time.

You could argue that would be an apt description of Eurovision itself but for all of its mooted wackiness, Eurovision Song Contest doesn't capture how ridiculously broad the real Eurovision is, even if it brings in some alumni for cameos - Conchita Wurst, Netta and Salvador Sobral among them.

Maybe it was stifled by the necessity to try and explain the appeal of Eurovision to millions of Americans who will be introduced to the concept for the first time - and you can thank the Yanks and their ignorance of everything beyond their own borders for the clunky, explanatory title.

Ferrell and McAdams have a strange chemistry
Ferrell and McAdams have a strange chemistry

Ferrell and McAdams have a weird chemistry that doesn't really work as partners/would-be lovers/maybe siblings, and not in that deliberately cringe Amy Poehler/Will Arnett Blades of Glory way.

Ferrell's Lars is a character whose obstinance makes it hard to root for him.

McAdams is luminous every time she's on screen and even though she's lip syncing her musical performance, she makes it believable. But she may be slightly miscast in this role, or it, like everything else in Eurovision Song Contest, is severely underwritten.

Eurovision Song Contest could've been a wild, raucous time, but instead it's a limp movie you can scroll past without giving it a second thought.

Rating: 2/5

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is on Netflix from Friday, June 26 at 5pm AEST

Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as New Netflix movie is limp, forgettable


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