I have some Danish friends who are eccentric at the best of times but they’re totally crazy about one thing – the Eurovision Song Contest. Every year their daughter posts a running, song-by-song account of the competition on her social media page. Although I’ve never watched the event (it’s not on TV in Hong Kong… at least I don’t think it is), I feel I’m reasonably well-versed on what’s happened with it in recent years thanks to her. For those whose Eurovision knowledge isn’t going to win them any trivia contests, Will Farrell’s latest comedy, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA is a great introduction to this cultural phenomenon whose TV audience is twice as large as the Super Bowl’s.
From the time he was a little boy, Lars Erickssong (Ferrell, the DADDY’S HOME movies; the ANCHORMAN movies; BLADES OF GLORY; TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY; TV’s SNL) had the dream of one day winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Now a middle aged man who still lives at home with his widowed fisherman father, Erick (Pierce Brosnan, the MAMMA MIA! movies; NO ESCAPE; James Bond), Lars performs in a band in his hometown of Húsavík, Iceland, along with his best friend and possibly sister, Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams, GAME NIGHT; DISOBEDIENCE; SPOTLIGHT; TO THE WONDER). Together known as Fire Saga, they apply to be Iceland’s representatives in the next Eurovision Song Contest and, through a twist of fate, they get selected. Once they arrive at the event in Edinburgh, Scotland, though, their loyalty to each other is put to the test, particularly after Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens, HER SMELL; BEAUTY AND THE BEAST; COLOSSAL; THE COBBLER; TV’s DOWNTON ABBEY), Russia’s representative to the contest, shows more than a passing interest in Sigrit.
If you’re expecting EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA to be a satiric takedown of the event, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. While the film does poke fun at the event’s camp costumes and cheesy songs, it pays great affection and respect to the institution. After watching ESC, you will definitely want to watch the real event if only to compare. (This year’s competition was cancelled due to the coronavirus. Hopefully, it will return next May in Rotterdam and you, too, can live tweet it.) Surprisingly, the songs here are quite catchy, particularly “Jaja Ding Dong”, the bouncy tune that Húsavík’s citizens are most passionate about. Don’t be surprised if it gets played on your local radio station, if it hasn’t already. It’s an earworm, for sure!
Although it is about 30 minutes too long, ESC features some wonderful performances, particularly from Stevens, whose over-the-top portrayal of a rich, slimy George Michael-wannabe steals the film. Brosnan does the best work we’ve seen from him in a very long time too. Eurovision fans also will enjoy seeing more than a few previous competition winners and competitors in the story’s “Sing-off” scene. Unfortunately, the film’s weakest performance comes from Farrell himself who does his usual overgrown man-boy shtick here. I suppose we could cut him some slack as he co-wrote the story along with former SNL head writer Andrew Steele.
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA is goofy fun and that’s just what we all need right now. It’s available on Netflix so definitely check it out.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, July 3rd, 8:30 am HK time!
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