Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) | NETFLIX
Eurovision Song Contest is actually a real thing that happens annually (which I honestly didn’t know), and oddly enough because of the happenings within 2020 has been cancelled, leaving this Will Ferrell/Rachel McAdams musical comedy to fill in the empty gap… sort of.
David Dobkin had a brilliant start to his career - striking a comedic match with Wedding Crashers (2004), then soon after losing his flame, directing unfortunate films like Fred Claus (2007), The Change-Up (2011), and R.I.P.D. (2013). Throughout his career he dove head first into music videos, something not uncommon for high profile directors to do from time to time (just look at David Fincher’s filmography), so when Dobkin took on a mysterious project surrounding the world of music, it peaked my interest (but not by a lot). Now that I’ve finished the entire feature I can say that his music video past is not worth acknowledging as the musical segments of the film are stylistically the worst aspect; it’s almost as though he didn’t know where to place the camera or how to edit it all together. When the film strays away from the musical aspects, which in a two hour comedy is quite often, we are met with a fantastic mix of crude, dry, and outrageous humor that more often than not hits because of the direction in place.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is based on a screenplay by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele. Steele being known for creating shows such as The Spoils of Babylon, Funny or Die Presents, and the screenplay for Casa De Mi Padre, it should be no surprise for fans as to what type of film they are walking into - a completely bizarre one. The plot follows two middle aged friends that finally get to pursue their dream of competing in the Eurovision Song Contest. The story is a rollercoaster as we journey with the dreamers through their entry into Eurovision and follow them to the bitter end, assisted by many recurring hijinks along the way. The outline of the plot on paper is as cookie-cutter as you can get (without diving into spoilers), but the details that connect the obvious bullet points of said outline are what truly stand out with their absurdity. The length is daunting and does stretch quite thin at points, bringing in unnecessary filler that makes the final product feel slightly disjointed. While you can easily spot where our lead characters are headed, the journey to get there with these absolutely wacky characters is an ultimately entertaining one.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
From afar there seems to be a ton of characters within the story of Eurovision, however in actuality there’s only four notable actors in the film: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, and Pierce Brosnan. There are tons of side characters we rarely see again sprinkled throughout. If you’re a fan of any of the actors mentioned, you should have no issue finding something to truly enjoy in The Story of Fire Saga. This isn’t Holmes & Watson, as Ferrell appears to really gravitate toward the role while pulling in his usually outrageous comedy and awkward humor. McAdams bests Ferrell's comedic timing but they both provide great performances - Ferrell's best in years and McAdams' best since 2018's Game Night. Brosnan as Lars’ father was a nice casting choice, and while he didn’t have a ton of screen presence, when he was featured he fully invested himself. Lars as McAdams’ Sigrit’s love interest was an interesting turn that took a bit of time to fully invest into but once the story hits its peak you feel for these characters and their longtime friendship. Finally Dan Stevens’ Russian contestant Alexander Lemtov - at times the best part of the film due to his bizarre accent (Stevens seems to only rarely take on his own accent in a role nowadays). Lemtov’s personality is completely fanciful, with an unrecognizable accent that appears less like studied Russian and more an accent created on the day of filming. It’s no bother though as Stevens whimsical take on a Russian contestant winds up being one of Eurovision’s funnier attributes.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"Unless this is your favorite book, I would not give this the time of day...."
Depending on your outlook, the fantastical scenery represented by Danny Cohen's wonderful cinematography may look almost unrealistic and feel as an obvious green screen when in actuality the unbelievable scenes were filmed on location in Iceland. The visuals felt almost like they resided in a fantasyland, which could be probable due to the existence of elves. The character designs are just as appealing, with every character arriving on screen with an eccentric attire that screams how odd the entire film is. They were grand, unique, and really held onto your interest throughout (McAdams' disco ball dress, Ferrell's Viking outfit).
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music is gorgeous, well crafted, and resembles truly something that you’d see from any aspiring artist that’s made it far in a competition. Will Ferrell lends his voice to the film, something that becomes fairly obvious during the music segments, while McAdams’ voice is not utilized here, with 2006 Junior Eurovision contestant Molly Sanden lending hers (credited as My Marianne). Sanden provides some beautiful vocals throughout yet sadly during key moments connects to why McAdams looks like she’s syncing with the lyrics. Composer Atli Orvarsson hasn't had the best track record when it comes to the films that feature his score. However within his long filmography lies one of my personal top ten films of all time, Edge of Seventeen. His score in Edge of Seventeen is marvelous and his score here isn't quite as good, but it plays up the emotions in the scenes, especially the comedy with a more sincere approach. There is one scene in particular that grabbed my attention in a wrong way with a man playing a sensational song on the piano; a song that covered the score for a short montage only to conclude with the duo meeting the musician playing seaside - the issue is when they arrive to the man playing live, the audio features no foley, it's an isolated sound next to a muted crowd and body of water.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an outlandish concept expanded into a feature length film that carries on for a little too long, making the length a bit of a journey in itself to get to the end credits. Yet somehow by the time they do get there, you almost instantly want to begin the experience once again.