EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA
(***)-VITO CARLI

"...overstuffed-but there is enough amusing gags to make it worth seeing."

The Volcano God Awakens

(072520) Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Contest is a fairly entertaining but slightly overlong (at two plus hours) romantic comedy about a fictional Icelandic male/female singing duo. Their dream is to win a big international singing contest and as it progresses one realizes the reason why many good comedies are only an hour and a half to an hour and forty minutes long.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a real program, and the film features vocal performances of varying quality by using real former contestants from the actual show. Eurovision is a competition featuring fifty or so countries that choose a solo artist, duo or group representing each country. The Contest is possibly best known because it was where Abba debuted their big hit: "Waterloo".

"The Story of Fire" has its share of entertaining musical numbers including Dan Stevensí ridiculous "Lion of Love" and Demi Lovatoís "In the Mirror". But the overall musical highlight of the film has the two stars singing a medley with the real Eurovision winners of Cherís "Believe" and Madonnaís "Ray of Light" which is a delicious overblown tribute to campy excess. I am not totally sure which songs were supposed to be funny though-perhaps all of them with the exception of Sigritís solo.

The film stars Will Ferrell (often ridiculously dressed in head to toe in spandex) and Rachel McAdams as a cheesy but sincere musical duo called "Fire Saga". As the name suggests the movie creates some laughs by playing off its ethnic theme, and at one point Lars wears a helmet that resembles Thorís, and the group often perform ridiculous songs that include exaggerated Icelandic nature metaphors (like Volcano Man ). It is kind of like as if an American group who wrote all their songs about bison or Starbucks.

The film features the typical "in love" movie couple that are the only ones who donít realize they are, in fact-in love. Ferrell plays Lars, a rather childish adult who is still full of wonder, while Sigrit (McAdams) is a slightly more mature but still naÔve teacher who believes in elves.

The whole town is filled with folksy and rather simple but decent people who are mostly charming and well intentioned like the type of people you often see on English comedy shows like "Doc Martin". Pierce Brosnan is superb as Larsí disapproving father who wants his son to give up because he thinks he is too old to become a new pop sensation. Many people in the town are related by blood, and the couple constantly has to deny that they are brother and sister reinforcing the cultural stereotype of frequent inbreeding in small towns.

The only problem is that the tradition is that the country that wins the contest must host next yearís contest. There is not enough money for the in the budget for the country to host the festival but luckily the couple has some possibly supernatural allies on their side.

Also, there are some clear obstacles to Lars and Sigridís budding relationship. There is a flamboyant Russian pop star who may or not be bi-sexual, played by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey of all people in the filmís most charismatic performance. He is trying to split up the duo by seducing Sigrid. On the other hand, Lars has a gorgeous singing admirer Mita, the Greek contestant who is well played by talented Melissantai Mahut. She would like nothing better than get him in bed. Viewers probably wonít have too much trouble guessing the eventual fate of the duo.

Watching a film on Netflix sometimes has its benefits. I put the Netflix language changing controls to good use and watched it once in English and once in Italian. In case you are dying to know the Icelandic accents do not carry over well or work in the Italian version.

Although Eurovision eventually won me over with its quirky charm, the movie lost a few points from me because it never even mentions perhaps the most significant Icelandic entertainer ever: Bjork, who was supposedly the model for McAdamsí accent. But my big question is what will the Icelandic people think of the film?

So "The Story of Fire Saga" gets a qualified recommendation from me.  It is definitely not a musical comic masterpiece. It never rises to the level of "
A Mighty Wind" or "This is Spinal Tap" but it sure beats "Momma Mia". Although it is overstuffed, there is enough amusing gags to make it worth seeing. In these days of Covid with diminished opportunities for new film viewing, beggars canít always be choosers.
 

Directed by:   David Dobkin
Written by:   Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele
Starring:   Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens
Released:   06/26/2020 on Netflix
Length:   123 minutes
Rating:   Rated PG 13 for crude sexual material, including full nude sculptures, some violent comic images and language

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.
 

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA  © 2020  European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
Review © 2020 Alternate Reality, Inc.