Directed by #DavidDobkin
6th April, 1974. The 19th Eurovision Song Contest is won by ABBA. 2,000 miles away, in subarctic Iceland, the bouncy fun of Waterloo inspires a motherless young boy to one day win Eurovision. The rest, in this case, isn’t history but the premise of David Dobkin's amusing Will Ferrell comedy. Ferrell himself admits to becoming “smitten” with the competition since the Frat Pack actor had his first Eurovision experience back in 1999. Originally scheduled for a theatrical release, irony has intervened and Ferrell’s love letter to Eurovision has ended up virtually filling in for the real thing on Netflix.
Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) is one of half of the Icelandic band, Fire Saga. The other is his lifelong best friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) who also has unrequited feelings for Lars. Despite the scorn of his disapproving father (Pierce Brosnan), and ridicule of the Húsavík townsfolk, Lars has his sights set on winning Eurovision. When the hapless pair are randomly chosen to take part in the Icelandic pre-selection contest, Lars suddenly finds his dream edging closer to reality.
In the hands of Ferrell and McAdams, Lars and Sigrit become the Eurovision equivalent of Ed Wood. The music is bad, they’re disastrously accident-prone and hopelessly bumble through one mishap to another. Yet, no matter how bad things get on and off stage, or how much they’re derided by their fellow Icelanders, Lars always keeps his dream alive, Sigrit keeps her faith and love in him and the ditzy duo just keep on going. Ferrell and McAdams are great together; they are, pretty literally, the heart of the movie and share an on-screen chemistry that makes them believable as friends, co-performers and, eventually, a couple.
Ferrell and Andrew Steele’s script lightheartedly pokes fun at narrative conventions; à la Rocky, Fire Saga are selected by chance to merely make up the numbers at Söngvakeppnin with little belief from the cynical Icelandic consortium that they'll actually get anywhere. Later, the writers laugh in the face of narrative logic by having all of the band's competition wiped out in an unexplained boat party explosion and Lars being given a helping hand by blonde superstar ghost Demi Lovato and Sigrit’s beloved elf friends. Less amusing is Dan Stevens’ flamboyant Russian star whose superfluous screen time notably sags the movie. Elsewhere, a well-cast Pierce Brosnan and real-life Eurovision commentator Graham Norton manage to hit the right notes more successfully.
Eurovision is, of course, a must for fans of the world’s most famous and most endearingly ridiculous Song Contest. As producer, writer and actor, Ferrell is on form for sure though top plaudits, this time, go to the delightful McAdams who shines as the lovable, loyal Sigrit.
Just like the show itself, Dobkin's comedy is a shameless slice of Saturday night entertainment, wrapped up with a surprisingly heart-warming, feel-good finale. Eurovision itself would be proud.