Fortunately, the Eurovision Song Contest has less in common with that insult to memory of Arthur Conan Doyle and more in common with Blades of Glory and Talledega Nights. The Netflix movie focuses on Icelandic singers Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) who grew up together in their remote fishing village and have been dreaming of competing in the annual event ever since they saw ABBA singing their way to victory with “Waterloo” in 1974. Several lucky strikes, or perhaps elves (Icelanders are big believers in them), means that his Fire Saga act is selected to represent Iceland, so this Ferrel movie follows a Once again the exploits of a strange couple sailing in a competitive arena niche
McAdams offers sincere support as Sigrit, who hopes to make sweet love and music with his singing partner, but whose affection has so far been unrequited. It’s a shame she’s never had a chance to be as comical as Ferrell, so her best moments are limited to when she’s singing, but even the actress can’t take all the credit for that: the Swedish singer and former Junior contestant. Eurovision Molly Sandén provided the Sigrit belt for a singing voice.
It is encouraging that Ferrell, who co-wrote the script, has a clear affection for the competition. He may be American, but thanks to his Swedish wife he has been watching the show for over 20 years. The film refuses to mock the Song Contest, instead lovingly mocking the idiosyncrasies that make Eurovision a popty and cheesy affair while celebrating the vibrant musicality delivered annually by the more than 50 competing countries. There are more than a couple of parodies that deserve to be repeated after the credits, “Double Trouble” and “Volcano Man” in particular. There’s also a delightful singing scene with several previous Eurovision winners singing a mix of pop classics as they dance around a Scottish stately home that Outlander fans might recognize beneath the gaudy decorations and well-endowed statues. The film even got UK Eurovision presenter Graham Norton to portray himself and make comments during various scenes, though it’s much less cutting edge than usual.The most ardent fans will find themselves pulling an Alan Partridge yelling at the television: “Stop messing around with Eurovision!” Occasionally. In one scene, Alexander jokes that everyone hates the UK because they get “null points” every year, which is fair, but since the event is being hosted in Scotland, that would mean that the UK is the reigning champions. This senseless mistake is fostered when the ceremony is hosted by a couple of non-British people, which seems like a strange thing to be wrong about given the great effort put into making this film authentic elsewhere.
It is admirable that the film does not shy away from the recent Eurovision controversy involving Russian homophobia, and clearly the film defends the competition’s drive for inclusion by offering several LGBTQI cameos. But that message is somewhat tarnished by the fact that almost all of the speaking characters are white, while people of color serve primarily as window dressing.
Adding these things up, Eurovision Song Contest becomes a movie of inconsistencies. It doesn’t capture the magic of Will Ferrell’s first friend comedies, but it still offers enough heart and joy to earn at least six audience points.
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