From Mean Girls to Game Night, Rachel McAdams has proven to be a top-notch comic actor, so it’s refreshing that she receives equal attention alongside Will Ferrell in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Truth be told, McAdams gets as many laughs as he does, though that’s largely because this is a middling Ferrell project that has its moments but mostly brings to mind better, music-themed comedies (A Mighty Wind in particular).
Ferrell and McAdams play Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir, Icelandic childhood friends who now, in middle age, are still pursuing the dream of winning the Eurovision Song Contest, despite erratic talent and a Spinal Tap-like tendency toward stage mishaps. If you’re a fan of the actual Eurovision competition this will likely work better for you, as there are countless cameos from international pop stars. This is especially the case during “Song-a-Long,” a lavish group number that’s at once cheesy, exhilarating, and hilarious (which, from what I understand, could describe Eurovision itself).
Then again, non-American Eurovision fans might be insulted. The way the filmmakers depict Iceland as a land of goofy sweater-wearing yokels and knockoff Bjork types would be getting the movie cancelled if the location was, say, Taiwan, rather than a Nordic nation. (The script is written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele, with David Dobkin of Wedding Crashers serving as director.)
Still, the cultural “context” at least allows for some good gags about elves, whom Sigrit steadfastly believes in. (After fortune swings Fire Saga’s way due to the sudden deaths of most of their competitors, Sigrit declares, “The elves went too far!”) The film also offers a delightfully silly Dan Stevens, who nearly steals the movie as a rococo Russian pop star with the voice of Pavarotti and the stage presence of Siegfried and Roy. His signature number, “Lion of Love,” is one of the 11 or so Euro-style original songs for the film, and might be my favorite. It’s like the Lion King stage production Elton John might have staged if he had been given full rein.