(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: Two middle-aged Icelanders who have spent their entire lives determined to win the annual Eurovision Song Contest finally get their chance to compete on the world stage.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Confession: I watched the trailer for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and thought the movie would be unwatchable. The reviews have been mixed to negative overall, and I was very close to writing this off forever as something I’d never bother to see.
But after encountering a wave of praise from several people whose film opinions I respect, I decided to put my disdain for the trailer aside and give it a shot – and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Eurovision is one of the best mainstream comedies I’ve seen in a long while.
Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams are reunited with Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin here, and the results make me want to see the three of them make several more movies together. McAdams is wonderful, elevating a slightly underwritten role and bringing a winning combination of humor, wide-eyed wonder, and emotional maturity. Ferrell is basically just doing a riff on the types of goofy characters we’ve seen him play before, but having McAdams to bounce off makes that man-child schtick far more palatable than it might be otherwise.
Ferrell and Andrew Steele (Casa de mi Padre, A Deadly Adoption) wrote the script. Their previous writing collaborations have been outright parodies, but I didn’t see this movie as a satire of the real-life Eurovision as much as Ferrell and Steele paying loving homage to a contest that’s as ridiculous and outlandish as they are. While a couple of the film’s songs are meant to make you laugh (example: Dan Stevens as a hunky Russian pop star singing about lions), most of the songs in this movie aren’t meant as jokes, and many of them are legitimate bangers. I was tangentially reminded of The Lonely Island’s Bash Brothers Netflix special, in that both projects strike me as being born from a place of genuine affection for their subject matter instead of “hey, here’s a thing we can make fun of.”
Does it matter that the subplot about a disapproving father and an artistic son yearning for his dad’s approval feels like it’s ripped straight out of Zoolander? Not really! The whole film feels formulaic by design – the strict structures of reality competitions and 100-plus years of movie history have conditioned us with what to expect, and all of that provides a convenient way to meta-textually acknowledge some of the story’s shortcomings. But the film is consistently so damn funny and charming that none of those shortcomings are ever enough to bring it down.
I haven’t seen every new release of 2020 (I still need to see Da 5 Bloods, The Invisible Man, and a few other big ones), but shockingly, Eurovision is my favorite new movie of the year so far. Part of it might be because my wife and I visited Iceland a couple of years ago and this movie beautifully captures the breathtaking splendor of that country, and part of it might be because we’ve been cooped up for months due to this pandemic. Whatever the reason, Eurovision was exactly the right movie I needed in my life at the moment. If you check it out, I hope it brings you as much joy as it did me.
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