Let’s overstay our welcome.
One thing this movie has going for it is that Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga might be the weirdest film name of 2020. Anything that can manage to be called the weirdest this year deserves some sort of praise. Too bad that is about where my positive remarks are going to end.
We follow idiot manchild Lars (Will Ferrell) and his oddly loyal and loving friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) as they pursue Lars’ lifelong dream of winning Eurovision, which from my perspective is a European American Idol. (I don’t know, nor care, which of these contests came first). Their band, Fire Saga, is apparently a laughingstock around their small city of Iceland, but through a series of fortunate accidents, they end up going to the contest.
I feel somewhat odd discussing the music as the pop genre is something that I do not enjoy. It always irks me when I see non-metalheads evaluate metal in a way that dismisses the artistry. My complaint with the music in this movie is that Fire Saga doesn’t sound bad enough to warrant the disdain they are given. Sure, the lyrics are awkward, but the overall feel of the music is too similar to the other acts. Why this group is so loathed in their hometown should be due to their inability to do anything else with their lives, not necessarily their musical quality. The failures the band has is more due to failed stage direction and physical comedy—not their sound. This incongruence with why they aren’t respected never resolves itself in the film.
I like musicals in person. What I don’t like about filmed musicals is that we get lip-synced performances. I’m not an idiot, I know this is done for obvious reasons, but it is incredibly jarring to hear voices that are not the actors when they are supposed to be singing. This is perhaps the most notable when British actor Dan Stevens is playing a Russian singer named Alexander who sounds like a Spanish opera performer. The musical performances are so obviously synthesized it becomes jarring at each turn. With so many of these numbers in the film it is hard to ignore.
While this film does not identify itself as a traditional musical, it is close enough to that classification to warrant a comparison, and it fails in this genre. Fans of the style might enjoy the numbers, but we aren’t given many full songs. Rather, we are given numerous snippets of half songs, so anyone wanting a full number will be disappointed and those who do not want a full number still have to sit through the performances. It seems like the film wanted to ride the line and alienated both audiences.
The romantic elements of the film annoy me. No matter how we look at the story, it comes down to a selfish man ignoring and semi-abusing a woman who has poured her entire identity into him. The whole trope of realizing what he has right before it leaves him forever is so exhausting. Sigrit’s character is only defined by her relationship to men, and this is so damn boring and old that it is hard to take.
The comedic aspects of the film are its strongest part when they work. Ferrell is funny, and his willingness to throw himself into a role completely are commendable. His absurd character will get laughs, but the long stretches between the laughter are hard to take.
Perhaps the biggest issue of the film is that it is over two hours long. While the final act is probably the funniest, you’ll be so ready for the film to end they won’t have the same impact. What sucks is that there are a lot of funny moments, but they’re simply too stretched out. The film could (and should have concluded) far earlier. The entire chunk with the semi-finals adds nothing new (despite some cringy laughs) and removing this would bring the film down to a more acceptable length.
While I did not enjoy the film, I do not think it is one of the worst of the year. Oddly, I could see this one ending up on both best and worst of the year lists due to the sheer lack of films this year. For fans of Ferrell and traditional romantic comedies this one will meet the needs for a decent movie night. However, it won’t stick with you at all, which is quite a shame considering the extremely talented cast here.
I’d say skip it unless you like pop music and romcoms.