4 out of 5
The Eurovision Song Contest - lots has been written about it. People like it. People loathe it. And yet, across the gulf of space, it endures and has only ever been interrupted by a pandemic. It's made of strong stuff. There are casual observers and fans of the contest,like me and there are super-fans, outrageous fans who live to love and love to love all things Eurovision. Ireland holds the honour of most Eurovision wins, with seven and has inspired a whole host of pub-quiz questions to boot.
Will Ferrell, whose wife is Swedish, introduced him to the phenomenon that is Eurovision, many years ago and, it's safe to say he is a fan. He is alleged to have gone to many of the finals. It's clear he "gets" Eurovision and understand that it's not just about the song.
The Stars of Fire Saga (McAdams and Ferrell)
In the film, Ferrell and co-star Rachel McAdams are members of the downtrodden band “Fire Saga.” The two Icelandic singers (named Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir ) have but one dream, to win the Eurovision song contest. However their talents and funds have always been slightly lacking when competing against Iceland’s greatest pop star Katiana (Demi Lovato). But with a little luck (and some prayers to the Elves) the duo make it to the main stage and find themselves fully immersed among the Eurovision celebrities. Along the way we get to see the behind the scenes of the Song Contest, we attend parties, witness trysts (or not) and in one scene, we meet lots of real-life Eurovision stars at a party who have a sing-a-long. It is full of Euro-pop delight. The party is hosted by the Russian contestant, Alexander Lemtov, played with great gusto and a wonderful singing voice by British actor Dan Stevens, last seen in Downton Abbey.
Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov
Pierce Brosnan plays Ferrell's father, even though Ferrell looks older. Brosnan's character is a bit of a town playboy who is disappointed in his middle-aged son's lack of a career. His accent floats somewhere between Reykjavik and Moscow but he has the right chops and a twinkle in his eye when needed. Special mention for another Irishman, Graham Norton who normally provides the commentary for BBC television and here, casts an acerbic eye on proceedings. One imagines it was not a stretch of his acting abilities, but still a delight and a detail that grounds this film in reality, I think.
Pierce Brosnan as Erik Erikson
The plot devices to set up the story are a little far-fetched but once our Eurovision hopefuls get to the contest, the plot is fairly predictable. I can't believe I used "far-fetched" and "predictable" in the same sentence but, hey this is Eurovision.
Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele (SNL alumni) have written a sharp, witty script that gives Ferrell one of his best films in years. There is even a little political fun as Ferrell's character pokes fun at American tourists in Europe. He clearly know the trope.
Love it or hate it, the Eurovision Song Contest is a global phenomenon. This film plays due homage to it. It's hard to imagine any fan being upset by it - in fact, quite the opposite. Even if you're not a fan, there is enough here to get a few laughs.
Iceland - douze pointe!
Graham Norton providing his Eurovision "commentary"