Synopsis: Two underdogs represent Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Ah, the strange enigma that is the Eurovision Song Contest. Barely noticed in North & South America, beyond the notion that it had something to do with ABBA’s start, Will Ferrell and screenwriting partner Andrew Steele are giving us some campy enlightenment about the songwriting contest. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga features the fictional duo Fire Saga, comprised of fisherman Lars (Will Ferrell) and teacher Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). They have been friends since they were kids and Sigrit has unrequited romantic feelings for Lars. Both characters are played as dimwits, which real-life Icees are not. Such a small population demands that people be self-sufficient and take on multiple roles, such as practicing physician and mayor (of Reykjavik, Dagur Eggertsson).
Lars dreams of musical fame and thinks that getting into the Eurovision contest will impress his disapproving father Erick, a real silver fox as played by Pierce Brosnan. Fire Saga practices new material that Sigrit has written, but the patrons at the bars they play insist on hearing the nonsensical sing along “Jaja Ding Dong” song over and over.
So what is the Eurovision Song Contest? Well…it’s cheesy, Euro-trashy and very popular. For the most part, it’s a sort of original song Olympics. The first contest was in 1956 and was designed to bring uplift and fellowship to post WWII Europe. Today the contest has more than forty competitor nations, including the non-Euro nations of Morocco, Australia and Israel. The winner is selected through an arcane system of points accumulated through tele-voting and jury selections. To avoid FIFA level corruption, a country cannot vote for itself. Voting cliques, however, do exist, usually based on shared languages and regions.
The Eurovision Song Contest movie takes full advantage of the mix of nationalities that Sigrit and Lars will will be exposed to when, against the odds, they make it to Edinburgh, Scotland where that year’s contest is being held. Dan Stevens is a comedic standout as Alexander, a Russian singer who begins his routine with operatic yowling and proceeds to entertain the audience with his song ‘Lion of Love’ while he slinks across the stage shirtless, cracking a whip at his male dancers who are barely clad in gold lame. Choice lyrics include : I’m a lion lover/and I hunt for love/ On the savannah…But I was going around/And saw a gazelle/with a flirtatious smile/ Swift as the wind.
Before long, the pretty and guileless Sigrit catches Alexander’s eye and he invites her (and Lars) to an outrageously decadent party that he’s throwing. Before you know it, past Eurovision contestants are belting out a mashup of club favorites. And a sexy Greek songstress is trying to hook up with Lars. I’m sure that Will Ferrell is well aware of how funny that is, and that the beautiful Sigrit is pining for him. Will Ferrell has his own brand of shtick down after decades and he plays his middle age for laughs, but the overgrown boy roles at retirement age are more distracting than amusing.
Will Sigrit and Lars win the contest and fall in love? It doesn’t really matter. The point of the movie is just poking good natured fun at the contestants and elaborate stage performances at the Eurovision contest. The songs are delightfully over the top and pedestrian, except for Sigrit’s “Husavik/My Hometown” song. Also, we’re treated to a couple of minutes of Iceland’s amazing band Sigur Ros playing over a scene set in Iceland near the end of the movie. We also get to see Iceland, Edinburgh and more of Pierce Brosnan. All very welcome, even if we don’t get to hear Pierce break out in song a la Mamma Mia 😉
P.S. Swedish group ABBA won in 1974 for Waterloo…Ireland has the most wins.. Celine Dion’s song, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi/Don’t Leave Without Me, written by Atilla Sereftug & Nella Martinetti, won in 1988. The Canadienne represented Switzerland. Huh? Just another wacky Eurovisionism.
P.P.S. The songs were overseen by Savan Kotecha, who also wrote some of the songs along with Gustaf Holter, Christian Persson, Arnþór Birgisson, Rami Yacoub, Jörgen Elofsson, Gsus and Rickard Göransson.
Molly Sandén (My Marianne) sings for Sigrit/Rachel McAdams, and Erik Mjönes sings for Alexander/Dan Stevens.
Movie Loon’s Shortcut Movie Review:
Cut to the Chase: Not as funny as Ferrell’s Blades of Glory, but a worthwhile diversion.
Humor Highlight: Dan Stevens as Russian singer Alexander.