Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga (2020) hits some of the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
Like WWE, Eurovision is a fandom I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around. Oh sure, I used to watch the contest growing up and I can’t deny my interest waned right about the time it became blatantly obvious that the UK would never ever win again and I drifted away from the contest, first of all only tuning in for the voting cycle and then…completely. “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga” isn’t going to reverse that trend but it was certainly a lot more fun than I’ve had watching anything under the Eurovision banner for over twenty years.
When tragedy strikes the Icelandic entry for the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest, sympathy makeweight contestants Fire Saga (Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams)) find themselves suddenly promoted to the official Icelandic entry.
Co-written by Ferrell, thankfully the gradually-less-funny man restrains his usual manic schtick to a more palatable level than other recent outings, perhaps conscious of the need to not try to overegg the already ludicrous campiness of the competition itself. It’s all silly lightweight fun and while Ferrell keeps himself in second gear, he’s still clearly having fun, as are the rest of the cast perhaps none quite so much as Dan Stevens who chomps his way through the scenery with gay abandon. Rachel McAdams provides a perfect foil for Ferrell’s wackiness and helps to humanise the otherwise nonsensical shenanigans unfolding on-screen, while Pierce Brosnan demonstrates the true extent of his versatility with a roaming pan-Scandinavian accent which, judging by some of the expressions he pulls, sits as comfortably in his larynx as Abba songs.
Of course, of all the suspensions of disbelief required to keep this movie afloat, none strain credibility more than the idea of Edinburgh hosting the finals – implying as it does that a UK entrant won the preceding years. Unless, of course, it’s set in the future where Scotland has cut loose from its southern albatross and is tartan itself around the capitals of the EU to win friends and influence people. It’s a leap too far for a film which manages to amusingly incorporate the Icelandic traditional belief in elves to great effect.
Once the action moves to Edinburgh, the film plunges fully into the campy cult appeal of Eurovision. There’s a big old sing-off medley – albeit one that’s lifted shamelessly from “Pitch Perfect 2” – that crams in as many Eurovision luminaries as you may have forgotten or never heard of and while it’s fun and sporadically toe-tapping its symptomatic of a film which leans to heavily on its gimmick rather than developing its plot in a satisfying way.
If this had been made in the eighties when gimmicky comedies like this were cranked out every few months, it would have been a gloriously madcap caper first and a Eurovision musical second, with the villains – both real and fake-out – given time and scenes to develop properly. Like the ceremony itself, it’s about a third too long and, again like the ceremony which it celebrates, it’s too eager to reward flamboyant excess at the expense of true artistic merit but in the end, it’s also two hours of harmless Eurotrash that amuses more than it baffles or bores and that’s something its storied subject matter hasn’t been for me for years.