Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic around the world, a good dose of comedy would be perfect timing to distract us from our current harsh reality for a while. David Dobkin’s latest film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga — his first since 2014’s The Judge — seems like we have a temporary antidote for that: a potentially hilarious satire and spoof on the world’s popular international song competition, with Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams on board playing the two Icelandic pop-star wannabes nicknamed Fire Saga.
Unfortunately, what we have here instead is an unnecessarily overlong (clocking a little over 2 hours!) and largely unfunny comedy that sees Will Ferrell’s once-promising career continues to suffer from a nosedive. The story — credited to Ferrell himself alongside Andrew Stelle — centres on two small-town musicians from Húsavík, Iceland (Will Ferrell’s Lars Erickssong and Rachel McAdams’ Sigrit Ericksdottir) — who have always been dreaming of winning the Eurovision Song Contest. One day, they got lucky after being randomly selected as among the participants for the local Icelandic Song Contest. And their luck continues as they even end up qualified for the Eurovision Song Contest following a bizarre incident.
The real-life Eurovision Song Contest, which has been held every year since 1956, famously brought us ABBA and Celine Dion — both of which have won the competitions respectively in 1974 and 1988. The 2020 edition is supposed to take place as usual but forced to cancel due to the pandemic. The movie itself even showcased a scene where the young Lars (Alfie Melia) dancing to the tunes of ABBA singing “Waterloo” live on television during the Eurovision Song Contest 1974. It was a nice touch, albeit only for a brief moment.
But the laughs are so few far and between. Or more specifically, almost non-existent to the point this comedy feels like a forceful stretch for the sake of fulfiling a standard feature-length running time. It doesn’t help either when Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga takes a long detour to focus on the obligatory romantic subplot between Lars and Sigrit — a result that drags the movie further.
Will Ferrell’s signature man-child antics are mostly a letdown. Stale would be the right word here. Not even all his efforts of sporting a (purposefully) outrageous Icelandic accent and over-the-top appearance can mask the fact that he’s no longer as funny as he used to be.
But his co-star, Rachel McAdams, at least made quite an impression in her comedic yet sweet-natured role as Sigrit. She gets to do some singing too, even though her vocal performance is largely backed by Swedish singer Molly Sandén. Dan Stevens fares better as well, with his flamboyant and sleazy supporting turn as the Russian contestant Alexander Lemtov.