Iceland was odds-on to win 2020’s Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in history, long before – as with every other major event this year – the competition got cancelled. It seems fitting, then, that the country should take centre stage in Will Ferrell’s Netflix dedication to the europop extravaganza. And the film does mostly come across as a surprising dedication rather than the US-centric send-up many expected. It seems sensitive and mostly true to the competition. Perhaps even Will Ferrell can’t spoof the unspoofable?
He stars as Lars Erickssong, a small-town guy with big dreams to win the Eurovision Song Contest with his collaborator since childhood, Sigrit Ericksdottir (played by a pitch-perfect Rachel McAdams). The kooky Icelandic stereotypes make them a likeable pair, but one with a very small fanbase. Even Lars’s ‘extremely handsome father’ Erick (now-silver fox Pierce Brosnan) has no time for the duo’s delusions in power-ballad group, Fire Saga. But by a twist of fate (and by calling on the Icelandic elves), the band ends up competing for their country on the contest’s main stage in Edinburgh.
The songs are as anthemic as they ought to be (Savan Kotecha, the songwriter behind Ariana Grande’s biggest hits, is one of the production team). The staging is ludicrous, especially for Lion of Love by Russian favourite Alexander Lemtov (performed with animalistic prowess by Dan Stevens). And the lyrics are, of course, total nonsense (‘I told my mama that I ain’t gonna come home/I told my papa to mow the lawn on his own’). Hard-done-by Eurovision fans will no doubt enjoy all this. There’s even a singalong in the middle starring the great and good of modern Eurovision. But just like the contest, the movie is painfully drawn out and the jokes fall a bit flat. Luckily, as in real life, a cameoing Graham Norton’s commentary helps pep things up and move the action along.
The sincerity that Eurovision fans might fall for is exactly what stops the comedy from taking off. And the Nordic tweeness of Fire Saga might make for feelgood viewing, but this duo is pretty one-dimensional and lacking in the punchline department. Lars is one of Ferrell’s least complex leads, and that’s a real shame – Eurovision has a rich history of subject matter he could have leaned on here.
Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan
Release date: On Netflix now