Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Review: Another Disappointing Will Ferrell Vehicle

There was a time about 15 years ago when Will Ferrell felt like a truly unstoppable force of comedy. After a stellar run on Saturday Night Live, the comedian erupted on the big screen with films like Elf, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Semi-Pro, and Step Brothers. The guy was a defining voice in comedy for an entire generation, but that generation has since grown up, and while the films from Ferrell's prime remain comedy classics, his more recent works often fail to recapture the bravado and hysterical antics that made him so popular. Such is the case for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, a film that has all the potential in the world but no idea what to do with it.

Eurovision Song Contest is a new Netflix original movie from director David Dobkin, who is most known as the filmmaker behind the hit comedy Wedding Crashers. Dobkin reunites with Ferrell and Rachel McAdams in the film, having previously worked with both of them on Wedding Crashers in 2005. The actors play aspiring Icelandic musicians Lars and Sigrit, who together make up the band Fire Saga, as they try to take the top prize at the annual Eurovision Song Contest.

If you weren't already aware, Eurovision Song Contest is a very real thing that happens every year, where countries all across Europe send one musical act to compete with their best song. The event is televised all across Europe and has long been a massive phenomenon overseas. This year's contest was sadly cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic (though, ironically, the competitor from Iceland was a heavy favorite to win this year).

All that to say, the concept of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is absurd, and I mean that in a good way. Its intention is to tell a fun story based on an already ridiculous real-life concept, all while paying homage to the competition that inspired it. What's frustrating about the film is that it never really embraces its own absurdity, outside of a few costumes. It wants to have its cake and eat it, too, as Dobkin doesn't really succeed at making an absurd comedy or an inspiring dramatic tale. Instead of achieving both, this film winds up being neither.

Instead of waves of jokes and gags about this wacky contest, Fire Saga is content just coasting by on a half-hearted narrative and a bunch of music. It's competently made, but there's just nothing all that interesting or funny about what's going on. Ferrell does his Ferrell thing, and McAdams does her best to fill the gaps, but those classic tantrums and deliveries that made Ferrell a star just don't work all that well anymore. Had he leaned all the way into it, like he did in Step Brothers, it may have produced some solid laughs. But he doesn't. Instead, what we get here is Ferrell-lite, which is unfortunately what we've seen all too much of in recent years.

As one door closes, however, another one opens, and Fire Saga introduces the world to the hilarity of Dan Stevens. It's not like Stevens is a new star or anything, as he has impressed fans and critics alike with just about everything he's done throughout his career. But most of his roles have been serious in nature. Here, Stevens plays a Russian pop artist by the name of Alexander Lemtov, and he runs away with every single scene he's in. Stevens proves throughout this film that he's an electrifying comedic talent, completely throwing himself into the role and extracting laughter with ease.

It almost seems as if Stevens was the only member of the cast or crew who understood that Fire Saga could be wonderfully funny if simply played with the highest degree of ridiculousness. No one else got the memo, apparently.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga isn't an inherently bad movie. The story is easy to follow, though entirely too long, and the characters all make sense. It's a fine film. But that's what we've come to expect from Ferrell vehicles as of late — they're just fine. The Story of Fire Saga is just another hollow shell of a comedy, devoid of any excitement or substance. After Get Hard and two Daddy's Home movies, I'm not sure why I expected anything more.

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Rating: 2 out of 5

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga debuts on Netflix on June 26th.