26th June 2020 (Netflix Premiere)
When aspiring musicians Lars and Sigrit are given the opportunity to represent their country at the world's biggest song competition, they finally have a chance to prove that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.
Natasia Demetriou, Rachel McAdams, Will Ferrell, Dan Stevens, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Lovato
Beginning in 1956 and garnering hundreds of millions of viewers every year, the Eurovision Song Contest is a global phenomenon. The concept is simple: eligible countries who are part of the European Broadcast Union submit original songs for the other countries to vote on as being the best of the bunch. The fun comes from the flamboyancy and unpredictability each each entry brings. David Dobkins’ rigidly formulaic Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga fails to have either of these things.
In the tiny town of Húsavík, Iceland, Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell; Anchorman, Step Brothers) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams; Doctor Strange, The Notebook) perform together as Fire Saga. Since they were children and after seeing ABBA’s winning 1974 entry Waterloo, they’ve dreamed of winning the Eurovision Song Contest themselves. Lars’ father Erick (Pierce Brosnan; The Ghost, Goldeneye sounding more Welsh than Icelandic) is completely against the idea and constantly warns his son that the World will laugh at him.
Undeterred, they apply to take part in the pre-selection competition for Eurovision. Their performance is shambolic, but a tragic accident results in them being the only surviving contestants, allowing them to enter the finals by default. Fire Saga are then whisked away to the glamour of Edinburgh for the Eurovision Song Contest where their talents and friendship will be tested to their extremes.
Initially expected to be released on Netflix in May to coincide with the actual Eurovision, the film was moved to June amid the cancellation of the event due to COVID-19. It’s been a fair few years since I’ve watched the contest but I’ve caught a few of the highlights through social media sharing. Each year seems to one-up itself with ludicrous displays of showmanship and impossibly dazzling costumes. So it would be a tough task for a scripted version, then, to outdo the unpredictability of the show. Unfortunately, The Fire Saga does not achieve this.
One of the rules of Eurovision song submissions is that they cannot exceed a length of three minutes. A time limit is a stipulation that should have been applied to this arduously overlong visual rendition. Clocking in at over two hours, Eurovision: The Fire Saga is a one-note joke which – at best – would have sufficed at being half its length. There’s very little here to warrant its indulgent runtime and, more unforgivably, not enough of its titular event on show.
When it does finally get to the televised production, there are brief glimpses of what could have been. Snippets of other entries raise a few chuckles, with Sweden’s answer to Will Smith’s clean rapping on Coolin’ With Da Homies and Belarus’ Wolf Fang channelling 2006 Eurovision winners & Hard Rock monsters Lordi on Running With The Wolves. Having Graham Norton provide some cynical commentary in an attempt for authenticity is a welcome and underused touch, but there’s no escaping the feeling that Fire Saga is merely a cover band using the well-known brand to garner interest.
It’s fitting then that the unquestionable highlight of Fire Saga involves past Eurovision contestants. At a house party thrown by Russian participant and romantic rival Alexander Lemtov (played by a wonderful Dan Stevens of The Guest and Apostle fame), guests break out into an impromtu ‘Song-A-Long’. John Lundvik (Sweden), Anna Odobescu (Moldova) and Bilal Hassani (France) from 2019’s show along with Loreen (Sweden, 2012 Winner), Jamala (Ukraine, 2016 Winner) and arguably Eurovision’s most famous face Conchita (Austria, 2014 Winner) plus many more medley and mash up Cher’s Believe, Madonna’s Ray of Light, Abba’s Waterloo, Celine Dion’s Ne partez as sans moi and The Black Eyed Peas I’ve Got A Feeling. It’s the only time the film feels alive and embraces the silliness of its premise.
Fire Saga themselves, Ferrel and McAdams, make for a passable pairing and they work best when displaying exactly what we signed up for – over the top theatrics and cringe-worthy singing. Their calamitous semi-final exhibition is up there with some of Ferrell’s funniest skits of recent years and their tune Double Trouble is irritatingly earworm-worthy. Whether that’s because it’s actually a decent song or because it’s played so often in the space of 2 hours is up for debate, but one thing’s for sure: Húsavík’s favourite dirty ditty Ja Ja Ding Dong really should have been Fire Saga’s actual entry.
Fans of Eurovision will no doubt find some enjoyment here having little else to devour in place of this years cancelled festivities, seeing the stage setup and even the logo flash up on screen. It’s just a shame that these pieces are short singles on an overall disappointing album that’s more filler than killer.
Song-A-Long featuring past Eurovision Winners and contestants
Dan Stevens' Russian Love Lion
Snippets of Eurovision performances
Far too long
Doesn't embrace the formats flamboyance