It had me at Pierce Brosnan and ABBA. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is – a campy slice of goofy escapism that pays tribute to a worldwide phenomenon that the U.S. has been remarkably slow to embrace. Long before “American Idol” or “[whatever country’s] Got Talent” or “The Voice,” there was the Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s biggest song competition. It’s been around since 1956, spans more than 40 countries (not just European), and launched the careers of ABBA in 1974 and Celine Dion in 1988. How did I not know this? Anyway, I do now, thanks to Will Ferrell, who got hooked watching Eurovision during summer trips to his wife’s home country of Sweden. Who better than Ferrell (Elf, Talladega Nights, Anchorman) to craft a starring role for himself in a film that celebrates and mocks a global event that features an eclectic mix of talent?
Ferrell and co-star Rachel McAdams (Game Night, The Notebook) play Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdotter (no relation – maybe), a pair of aspiring Icelandic musicians and misfits who get the chance – due to a series of unfortunate events – to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s been a dream of theirs since childhood, even though Lars’ father (Brosnan) is less than supportive of his son’s musical ambitions, and more than a little skeptical of his talents – with good reason.
While it’s true that Lars and Sigrit (aka Fire Saga) don’t exactly arrive at Eurovision on merit, the competition itself champions diversity and inclusion, along with vocal ability. So they sort of fit right in among the colorful cast of characters. Among them: Chechen-Russian contestant Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast), a “Russian George Michael” with looks, money, raw sensuality, and a unique performance style that blends pop and opera into surefire hits like “Lion of Love”. Alexander’s got a bit of a thing for Sigrit, who has more than a bit of a thing for Lars, though he’s too wrapped up in his music to notice – until he runs the risk of losing her as a friend and singing partner.
The story is silly, but the music is catchy and the cast is quite charming in all their quirky glory.
The film was shot on location in the UK and Iceland between August and October 2019 and was supposed to premiere in conjunction with the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest, scheduled to take place in the Netherlands. It was cancelled due to the pandemic. Next time it rolls around, I’ll definitely be watching.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is rated PG-13 and runs about two hours. It releases globally on Netflix on June 26.