Netflix has managed to boost the profiles of quite a few comedians since it first launched. Its stand up comedy shows has managed to spotlight up and coming talent like Hasan Minhaj and Allie Wong.
The streaming service’s original comedy slate has also led to rejuvenate the careers of established comedians such as Adam Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James and Will Ferrell. It is with the latter that the streamer has recently released their new ambitious comedy, Eurovision Song Contest: Story of Fire Saga.
The movie follows two Icelandic singers from a small town who want to become contestants of the Eurovision Song Contest. Chances are that if you’ve ever lived somewhere in Europe, you’re quite familiar with the international song contest, such is its might.
The competition has been going on for well over sixty years, with different European countries hosting the contest each year. The Eurovision Contest can be seen as an international American Idol except with the pomp of what one would expect from a mardi gras parade. The contest is quite over the top stylistically, yet avidly watched in Europe and around the world each year.
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Ferrell in recent years has done a better job in choosing which films to produce than the ones he has chosen for himself. Take his past projects, Vice, Booksmart and Hustlers, all of which were major awards contenders and yet his own films such as Daddy’s Home 2 and Holmes and Watson have been dismal at best. Enter, Eurovision a musical comedy written by Ferrell himself with Andrew Steele and directed by Wedding Crashers director Dave Dobkin.
The movie is a little more glamorous than Ferrell’s usual fare, featuring Rachel McAdams in a lead role with him and Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens and pop star Demi Lovato in supporting roles. It is also quite a mixed bag all around and is really going to work for viewers on a case by case basis.
Ferrel plays Lars, a middle aged man from Husavik who along with his childhood friend Sigrid (McAdams) wants to enter and win the Eurovision contest. However, they face challenges from Lars’s father Erick (Pierce Brosnan) and stiff competition from the likes of Katiana (Lovato) and Russian powerhouse Alexander (Stevens).
The movie does feature a lot of music in it, and while much of it is comedic, the vocal performance by Molly Sanden, who is the voice of McAdam’s songstress character, is quite impressive. Sanden’s voice has been mixed with McAdam’s, and it certainly was a smart decision given the vocal acrobatics that is required of McAdam’s Sigrid.
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It is also amusing to see the actors themselves take a turn at the mic, with Dan Stevens’s flamboyant Alexander an inspired casting decision. Brimming with charisma, Stevens is a scene-stealer on and off the stage. It is also a great relief that the film decides to gift him with the best scene partner in comedy films these days, Rachel McAdams.
McAdams’s most memorable comedic performance may be in Mean Girls but her work in 2018’s Game Night was equally brilliant. If comedic performances were recognized by the Academy to the degree that dramatic work is, McAdams would have more than deserved to take home a trophy for Game Night.
Here she plays a much more delicate and far less attractive character, but is nonetheless able to imbue her performance with more depth and benevolence, then what is on paper. McAdams and Stevens are the real stars of this film, and in a surprising move, the writers don’t undercut their relationship with romantic subplots or villainy.
Ferrell’s role is the weakest link in the film. There just isn’t in character to look past his petulant behaviour, and despite it is amusing to see him and McAdams perform camp on stage. The movie also isn’t particularly funny though that could be due to my unfamiliarity with the Contest itself.
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That possibility aside, while the movie gives us yet another reason to root for McAdams’ career, this isn’t really a top tier film for both McAdams and Ferrell. Those looking to spend their Netflix subscription on a lighthearted comedic film won’t particularly be disappointed, but for a movie centred on a truly wild contest, this feels just a little too safe.