The joy of karaoke has nothing to do with looking good or necessarily playing the right notes; it is about leaving inhibitions behind and giving everything at once. As simple as it sounds, it’s just about having fun. That feeling of pure and ironic joy is what makes Netflix’s new musical comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga I really sing. Director David Dobkin doesn’t get every beat, but he takes advantage of that carefree exultation so powerful that the stumbling blocks in the film are barely registered.
In the first moments of the film, a boy is fascinated by ABBA’s performance of “Waterloo” in the 1974 Eurovision song contest in real life. (The event, which has been going on since 1956, calls on European countries to present musical acts to compete.) There is no irony in their adoration for the poppy song or the group’s sparkling costumes; When the adults around him laugh at his enthusiasm, he yells at them to cut him off. One day, he says, he will be the one to perform on the Eurovision stage.
Fast forward to today, and Lars (Will Ferrell) still dreams of competing. Her father Erick (Pierce Brosnan, only 15 years older than Ferrell) disapproves, but Lars is fueled by his childhood best friend and current music partner Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). His band, Fire Saga, only performs in Erick’s garage and at the local pub, but a series of fortuitous events gives them a shot at fame and fortune at Eurovision.
It’s easy to guess where the story is heading at any given moment, and some of the jokes, from a script written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele, invite sighs rather than laughter. But clunkers fade from memory as soon as characters open their mouths to sing. The songs, from Fire Saga and all other competitors, are legitimately catchy, which is surprising for any movie other than a strict musical, but less since they are written by artists like Savan Kotecha (“Rise, by Katy Perry” “Much of Ariana Grande Sweetener) and Andreas Carlsson (“I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys and “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC). The music has not been halfway; Like everything else in the movie, the songs have been created with love.
The cast is similarly engaged, particularly McAdams, who has to sell Sigrit’s devotion to Lars (and his belief in elves) without making her look like a fool. However, the highlight is the performance of Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov, a Russian singer who also competes on Eurovision. Lemtov is as theatrical as it sounds: his song, “Lion Of Love,” involves many suggestive movements and shirt rips, and Stevens leans entirely in grooming, wagging his eyebrows and winking like a kind of flirting machine. But that outsized presence does not lessen the impact of a later revelation on his personal life. These characters seem silly, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth considering with empathy and care.
To that end, Eurovision remember movies like OMG! and The best showman, which cannot be enjoyed while holding on to any trace of irony. There is no such thing as guilty pleasure, when it comes to these movies; There is only pleasure. It’s a better point made for a “song” midway through the film, in which Lars and Sigrit wind up at a massive party alongside past and real-life Eurovision contestants like Conchita Wurst, John Lundvik, Bilal Hassani, and Netta. . . Singers harmonize while mixing songs in the type of mix (“Believe”, “Waterloo”, “Ray of Light”, “I Gotta Feeling”, “Ne Partez pas Sans Moi”) that Joy I could only dream. They are all cheesy and shiny songs, but there is no pooh-poohing for the more “serious” art here. Instead, the moment is triumphant. (Eurovision ramble a little more than OMG!but luckily Dobkin takes it less seriously than director Michael Gracey took The best showman.)
There are certainly times where Eurovision drags, but as a de facto replacement for the contest canceled by this year’s pandemic, it’s more than adequate. Dobkin and company fully understand that the real-life contest is well-liked for its sheer passion, rather than being something to be teased and teased. The film embraces that heartfelt seriousness, and the result is an endearingly silly but never cynical comedy with songs as memorable as anything ever performed in the real-life contest.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga is streaming on Netflix now.
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