Movie Review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story Of Fire Saga (2020)

I’ve been a huge fan of Eurovision since I was about fifteen. I don’t know if it was the music, the performances, or the way it improved my geography skills (Australia IS in Europe), but I was entranced. And since the 2016 contest, I’ve listened to each song as it comes out, obsessed over the artists and spent days of my life arguing about which songs are better, what could happen, and who deserved to win. So, when I heard that a Eurovision film was being made, I was very excited. Then I saw that it was Netflix who were making it.

An American corporation, who’s likely intentions would be to purely make money and make a mockery of the contest, like has been done for so many years. I was thinking – yikes – but I was prepared to give it a chance. Then Will Ferrell was cast as the lead Icelandic singer and that was it. This is probably going to be the worst film in the existence of video. Americanising a European contest? You ain’t been invited for a reason!!! Before the film’s release, the song ‘Volcano Man’ emerged – another yikes – and then a performance of ‘Lions of Love’, which makes the annual Riverdale musical episode seem like it belongs in the West End. Look, I know we excuse Jodie Comer’s fake Russian accent, but that’s because she does it well. Then came the leaks about the story – boat explosions? – and it was at that point it was certain. I would have to watch it on Friday. No matter how bad it is. I need to know.

(For the record, everything written above was written BEFORE I watched the film, and everything below came AFTER).

So, two hours later, I’m pleasantly surprised that this film isn’t a completely zero out of ten. There are several good points, even if the actual story is woeful, and the scripts are extremely poorly written.

The musical parts of the film are the best. The final song – ‘Husavik’ – is actually really good, and in a real contest it would genuinely be one of my favourites. I wish that they had made it clear in the film that it wasn’t Rachel McAdams singing (although that might have been obvious), and provided a cameo for Molly Sanden, the actual singer. Even if it is just the final scene, back in the Husavik pub. The Eurovision medley, featuring Bilal Hassani, Netta, Alexander Rybak (and however many more Eurovision icons) is maybe my favourite part of the whole film. Netta coming out of a limo, singing as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas……

This leads me to the next point: ‘Fire Saga’ is at it’s best when it goes full surreal. Repeated burning visions of Katiana, Demi Lovato’s character who wins Songvakeppnin but is then murdered in a boat explosion – yes, that did happen – are just an example of this. It’s also blatantly obvious that Netflix were thinking of Mamma Mia when they wrote this, they’ve even got Pierce Brosnan at a wedding! Perhaps they should have added more of the musical parts though; the actual story is very tedious, and the dialogue is embarrassing.

That aside, Will Ferrell is actually the worst thing about this film. His Icelandic accent goes full Irish at one point, and his character Lars Erickssong is annoying as hell. The love story pushed between the two Fire Saga members is dire too – there is zero sexual chemistry between the Ferrell and McAdams (probably just as well). And although I did stan the flirtatious advances of the Russian artist Alexander Lemtov, it was painfully obvious that he was gay the entire film. His story did get a sweet ending, with it being very implied that he decides to go to Greece with Mita, their stunning Eurovision entry, and admire naked statues, free from the constraints of his Mother Russia. It’s a very telling piece of social commentary from Netflix, who are currently trying to promote themselves as the defining liberal corporation speaking to the younger generations.

But they self-sabotage. Yes, they make the point at the end, in the credits, that the actors are from across the world, and make a big show of unity. But then why are all the main Icelandic characters American or Canadian? Was there no one in the whole of Iceland – or even who is part-Icelandic – who could have led the film? (although the delegation ARE from Iceland) Even Molly Sanden, who sung in Icelandic, is Swedish. The film’s portrayal of ethnic minorities is also problematic (I’m not reading too much into this). A Korean songwriter-producer is presented as only speaking in English slang, none of which makes sense at all. John Lundvik’s song in the fictional contest is about ‘Chilling With the Homies’ – yeah, read into that what you will.

The other songs, although crap (like ‘Lion of Love’) make fun of the contest in an affectionate way. The hamster wheel even makes an entertaining appearance at the semi-final stage. Demi Lovato’s track ‘In The Mirror’ is brilliant. The creators even were self aware at the stereotypical annoyance which the rest of the world has to unaware Americans, which was a nice touch. Does it mitigate the Americanisation of the film? Absolutely not. It’s part of the fun.

America tries to do Eurovision. And although it’s not good, if you’re willing to just accept that you know most of what’s going to happen, and sit through the cringe, it’s an entertaining enough watch. Thankfully, though, this is as close as they’re going to get to the real thing. They don’t even know how the semi finals work.

Overall rating: ★★★★ (4/10)

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