Since 1956, we Europeans have been able to enjoy the annual music competition «Eurovision Song Contest», which with its 64 completed shows is the world’s most tenacious, and largest, singing competition.
In other words, a competition that is very famous, loved and hated in Europe – but completely unknown in the United States. A little surprising then that Netflix with American production company, director (David Dobkin) and screenwriter (Will Ferrell) is behind the comedy about the legendary competition.
The film is a co-production between Ferrell’s own company, Gary Sanchez Productions, Netflix and the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), which is conveniently launched the one year the melody competition was canceled (due to pangolin-chewing Chinese).
But do not despair, if you are a blood fan of theEurovision Song Contest (as we call it here on the mountain) you will probably push this film to your beating heart.
However, we had envisioned an hour and a half of crazy comedy in a parody of the singing competition “everyone” watches, but loves to hate. Instead, Ferrell and co serve us over two tedious hours with a Eurovision tribute. Nothing wrong with that, just so blatantly annoying that the film is damn boring.
The story begins in the year of the Lord 1974, when ABBA climbs to the top with the land plague Waterloo. In a somewhat shocking home in the windswept Icelandic small town of Husavik, young Lars sits and gets carried away by catchy Swedish pop music – whereupon he steadfastly proclaims that he will win the entire competition when he grows up.
As I said so done. Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) has now got a mission in life, and with his dumb half-sister (?), Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams), he dedicates his life to winning Eurovision. Only problem is that Lars and his band suck. It is only when they start the “catchy” dance band song “Ja ja, ding, dong” that the semi-rabid villagers take a turn on a humid Saturday night at the local pub.
Lars is the local village clown who still lives at home with his father, a grunting and bitter Pierce Brosnan, who everyone laughs at – both in front of and behind his back. Nevertheless, Sigrit has stood by his side, and dreams that they will one day be a happy, small family.
The plot is set in modern-day Iceland, which strangely enough appears as a 1970s caricatured version of Saga Island. Here it is harassed with drunkenness, superstition, inbreeding and the recent financial crisis that hit the Viking island hard. Predictable and easy, and alas so little fun.
The first five to ten minutes, which take place in 1974, are really entertaining, but from there on out the film ends in a sad soup of flat oneliners, predictability and embarrassing jokes on a par with a medium Russian revue.
Why in the world would Will Ferrell write the script himself? The man has followed in the same footsteps for the last 10-15 years, without a hint of renewal or finesse. That he is behind Anchorman is today easily unbelievable to take over.
With Will Ferrell both in front of and behind the camera, we do not expect excellent, sharp and satirical comedy, but a bit of simple and petty “underpants humor”. Unfortunately, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes before we first feel the smiley face. For a comedy, it is probably hardly possible to get closer to rapids in the degree of execution.
The film is far too long, and almost a third consists of stage appearances, as outrageous and “harry” as most of the contributions to the real Eurovision. Fascinatingly enough, they are not caricatured enough to be able to distinguish them from the real contributions to the singing competition. Where is the comedy then?
Speaking enough, they have chosen to “spice up” the film with a number of real Eurovision artists, in an impressive choreographed song that will delight Eurovison fans, as well as written a lot of references from Eurovision history that hardcore enthusiasts will nod in recognition of.
The few jokes that are, are predictable and flat, like that there are no gays in Russia and that all Americans are arrogant and ignorant. The funniest of all is definitely a slightly sarcastic Graham Norton, who basically plays himself.
Usually rock solid Rachel McAdams falls through here. The relationship between her and Ferrell feels constrained, and she appears almost theatrical. Brosnan is uncomfortable and lacks comic timing, while Mikael Persbrandt shines in a far too small role as a cynical financier.
Copy of reality
The film is by no means a hysterically funny comedy that looks at the competition with an oblique, ironic look, but a straightforward declaration of love for the Eurovision Song Contest and almost a copy of the original. Exactly something like that that we can imagine that the algorithms of Netflix have hatched.
There is a reason why we stopped watching Eurovision when we left our childhood, after wasting over two (!) Hours on this film, we are convinced that we have not missed anything. 1 poor star.
A little tip at the end: The trailer carries a message about what the film could have been, and all the good points and jokes are taken out there. See it instead!