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Looking at projects the actor had led in the past – like Anchorman and Blades Of Glory – it was a fair assumption his spin on the Song Contest wasn’t going to be an entirely reverent one. And with Eurovision already the butt of so many jokes (particularly here in the UK), did it really need to be introduced to a brand new audience through a lens that didn’t treat it with the respect it was due?
Fortunately, many Eurovision devotees’ concerns were quelled when Will began speaking about his own passion for the Song Contest, having been introduced to it by some of his Swedish family almost 20 years earlier.
Last month, he told Graham Norton: “One evening her cousin suggested we watch it and we sat there for three hours straight. I was slack-jawed. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. Everything you guys see – the spectacle, the humour – it was intoxicating.”
He also said that he and his team felt they “owed it to Eurovision and the fans to make sure it was well observed”, so all signs truly pointed towards the team getting it right – particularly after fans were given a first taste of the film with Volcano Man, a music video which pretty much nailed the ridiculous/serious dynamic you’d want in a Eurovision comedy.
But with the film just days away from its debut on Netflix, was Will Ferrell true to his word? Well... kind of. But we don’t see it being a film fans will be tuning into more than once.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga does have a handful of elements that will keep fans happy, not least its very first scene, which sees a wide-eyed Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) falling in love with the contest as a young boy, after watching ABBA’s triumphant victory in 1974.
Fast-forward more than 30 years, and Lars’ love of the contest is still going strong, and his journey to the song contest is peppered with plenty of Eurovision-friendly musical numbers. While admittedly not all of them have repeat value, there are one or two fans may want to check out on Spotify afterwards.
There’s one particular musical sequence at around the halfway point that will come as a true delight to Eurovision fans. I’ll not spoil it for you completely, but expect to see a load of recent winners and other favourites coming together to perform a Pitch Perfect-esque medley of hits like Cher’s Believe and Madonna’s Ray Of Light.
Camp isn’t even the half of it, even if the producers did unwisely decide to have the fictional Eurovision entrants – played by Will, Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams – taking centre stage in what would probably have worked better as a real-competitors-only sequence.
This sums up the big problem with Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga. It isn’t a Eurovision-centric comedy, but rather a Will Ferrell comedy (a romantic comedy, at that) which just happens to take place at Eurovision.
The end product is a film supposedly hooked on Eurovision that takes far too long to actually get to the contest itself, with all the usual trappings of a Will Ferrell outing (gross-out humour, gags done for shock value and a weird running joke about Lars’ hatred of Americans that goes on far too long).
If anything, they could have gone in harder on the competition. Eurovision fans generally do have a sense of humour about the contest, which is sprinkled with countless ridiculous and silly moments ever year. But by avoiding poking fun at the contest (presumably due to the EBU’s involvement in the film), while also not spending enough time celebrating what makes it great, it’s not clear who this film is supposed to serve.
As a result, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga is neither an outright piss-take or a loving tribute, and ends up being one thing Eurovision should never be: boring.
The majority of the gags fall completely flat, and you don’t know whether you’re supposed to be rooting for Lars and his Fire Saga bandmate Sigrit to work out as a couple (largely because there are repeated suggestions that they’re actually brother and sister). Plus, at two hours, it’s simply too long.
Of course, if you’re a fan of the contest, you’re probably going to want to experience it for yourself regardless. But truly, if this year’s cancelled event has left you in need of some Eurovision in your life, you’re probably better off getting in on the last Eurovision Again this weekend, rather than sitting down to this ultimately disappointing offering.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga debuts on Netflix on Friday 26 June.