The European Broadcasting Union has long had designs on Eurovision reaching into new corners of the globe, specifically Asia and the Americas -who could have guessed it would be Will Ferrell that puts America within reach?
His Netflix film Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga is made in conjunction with the EBU and it may just be the perfect substitute for the year in which the contest was unable to proceed. It’s camp, self-ironic and, by the time the credits roll, downright feelgood.
Ferrell is co-writer, co-producer and star of the comedy, which is peppered with Euro-tastic pop and more than a few Eurovision cameos. There are wind machines, sequins, pyrotechnics, shirtless male dancers and cultural gags to please fans and newcomers alike.
Young Icelandic boy Lars falls in love with Eurovision the moment he hears ABBA singing Waterloo (riiiight) but his father Erick (Pierce Brosnan) is constantly dismissive of his son’s ambitions, even when the grown up version (Will Ferrell) duets with Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) in his garage as Fire Saga.
“You’re a middle aged man Lars…. time to move on from your childish dreams,” he insists.
Erick is not wrong there. While some may question the choice of the wrinkly Ferrell as an aspiring pop star, I didn’t mind it any more than Gina Riley playing Jane Turner’s daughter….
But while Sigrit longs for Lars affections, he only has eyes for Eurovision glory (refer: ABBA). By default Fire Saga is actually chosen to represent Iceland at the 2020 event in Edinburgh. That’s a stretch, if we are to believe United Kingdom won in 2019!
The attention to detail is strong here with Fire Saga given just minutes at their first stage rehearsal, with Sigrit attracting the eye of camp Russian performer Alexander (Dan Stevens) whose Lion of Love song is bursting with muscly, shirtless men. Hey, it’s Russia. Look out too for Demi Lovato as Greek entry, Katiana.
As the contest and festivities proceed there’s more cameos including Eurovision royalty: Conchita Wurst, Alexander Rybak, Loreen, Netta and Jamala in a medley encompassing Believe, Ray of Light, Waterloo & I Gotta Feeling. Portugal’s Salvador Sobral also gets a lovely busking moment. What no Verka Serduchka from Ukraine?
Graham Norton plays himself as UK announcer and even diehard fan William Lee Adams of ESC site wiwibloggs gets a cameo (NB: Mark Adams plays Jon Ola Sand, why?). I also enjoyed Fleabag‘s Jamie Demetriou as Iceland’s own staging extraordinaire.
Director David Dobkin makes the most of picturesque Edinburgh and Icelandic locations, while some scenes were shot at Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv for authenticity. The script gently mocks without ever losing Ferrell’s commitment or the feeling this is laughing at -rather than with- Eurovision. It’s clearly a valentine to the event at the same time, and I suspect an introduction to a continent that remains oblivious to its kitsch charms.
Rachel McAdams, sometimes looking dangerously Minogue-like, may be dubbed by Swedish singer Molly Sandén but she is pitch perfect as Sigrit.
No musical ever succeeded without a strong script and Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga is no exception. It’s not challenging for even a moment, but I had a great time with this EBU-endorsed kaleidoscope.
Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga Friday June 26 on Netflix.