Directed by: David Dobkin ; Written by:Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Graham Norton, Demi Lovato, and Pierce Brosnan
MPAA Rating: PG-13; Running Time: 123 Minutes
The Nicsperiment Score: 8/10
Lars Erickssong has a dream: ever since he was a small boy, he has wanted to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Sigrit Ericksdóttir also has a dream: ever since she was a small girl, she has wanted to be with Lars Erickssong. And finally, Erick Erickssong has a dream: that his son was somebody other than Lars Erickssong. As Lars and Sigrit approach middle-age, it appears neither of their dreams will be coming true. Despite their tireless musical work together, Lars and Sigrit don't seem anywhere close to getting into the Eurovision Song Contest, and because Lars can only focus on writing the perfect song, he has no time to turn his affections toward Sigrit. Meanwhile, life in their idyllic Icelandic town of Húsavík goes on until suddenly, through a series of bizarre events, Lars and Sigrit land a spot in the contest. As they leave for foreign shores, will they make their town and tiny island nation proud, or bring down national and regional embarrassment? Elrick sure hopes its not the latter.Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga seems like a surefire miss on paper. Will Ferrell, despite past glories, hasn't exactly enjoyed any cinematic triumphs over the past decade. Underdog stories like the one found in this film have been done to death, and nobody can recycle a tired formula to middling results like Netflix's film division. On top of that, the high concept of an Iceland-set comedy based around an over-the-top singing contest could have produced something overly weird and stereotypical.
Thankfully, cliches and tired formulas can be overcome by an overwhelming abundance of heart. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga's got that enduring, charming heart of an underdog. Somehow, against all odds, nearly every element of this movie works. It starts with Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele's script, which deftly balances both broad and specific comedic elements. The laughs also come from carefully built character work. Despite some decidedly dark humor sprinkled throughout, the film isn't mean toward its core duo, instead letting the laughs flow from a genuine understanding of these characters. Ferrell, as Lars, does a great job of playing a guy whose short-sighted ambition has clearly blinded him appreciating what he already has. He's flawed, but in a relatable way that never allows his character to slip into outright unlike-ability. Even better as Sigrit, Rachel McAdams proves yet again how big of cinematic treasure she has become. The talented actress long ago proved her dramatic chops, but in recent films like Game Night, and now Eurovision, she's proven that she's only more highly refined the comedic skills she showcased early in her career. McAdams dives into this role, fleshing out Sigrit's hilarious eccentricities, but never allowing the part to become a caricature. The talented actress deftly blends humor and heart, and the script, along with Dobkin's direction, wisely puts her front and center, particularly in the film's final act.
With all of this heart, along with McAdams' excellent performance, and even though Eurovision hits major beats underdog flicks have been working for decades, the film's emotional lynchpin moments all work. Most impressive is a stirring, surprisingly powerful moment celebrating Iceland and Húsavík. The film does real work creating a full character for Húsavík, painting the far north town as a unique and charming place where I must admit, I'd gladly move to this very moment.
The film even gets the old "I just didn't know how to raise a kid like you" trope to work, particularly due to a wonderfully prickly performance by Pierce Brosnan as Elrick, along with the ex-Bond's great chemistry with Ferrell. Really, I can't believe how well this film works. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a fine example of how, with heart, thought, and care, even the most exhausted cinematic elements can feel fresh and invigorating.