Written By: François-Noël Vanasse
La Casa de mi Padre (2012) but better…
Will Ferrell’s latest outing works incredibly well for what it is. Like the under-seen La Case de mi Padre (2012) Will Ferrell is once again cast as a foreigner, though this time he thankfully doesn’t attempt to fumble his way through the movie in a language he doesn’t speak and simply opts for a funny accent. The cast he’s surrounded himself also recalls bits from that film. Pierce Brosnan as the father who hates his guts, and Rachel McAdams and Melissanthi Mahut as the beautiful and talented friend who is inexplicably attracted to him.
The film begins with young Lars Errickssong (Will Ferrell) reeling from the recent death of his mother while his friends and family watch the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 where ABBA’s winning performance of Waterloo pulls him out of his funk and to the disapproval of his father Erick (Pierce Brosnan) bestows on him the lifelong dream of winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Decades later the tragic loss of Iceland’s qualifying musicians gives him and his best friend Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) the chance to participate. Once entered in the contest, however, Sigrit and Lars must overcome the meddling influence of fellow contestants Mita Xenakis (Melissanthi Mahut) and Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) as well as their stunning choreographic mishaps.
This is another one of Will Ferrell’s extremely silly movies. Like Blades of Glory (2007) before it Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) lampoons an event with fairly niche appeal but plays with less spoof-y “inside baseball” than La Casa de mi Padre did. With the actual Eurovision Song Contest 2020 cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, however, Fire Saga provides a welcome opportunity to engage in the pageantry and emotions of the spectacle this year. For the uninitiated, Fire Saga will be a bizarre and perplexingly funny window into a strange little world. For those familiar with Eurovision the film is surprisingly respectful and sincere. It manages to avoid mocking anything it shouldn’t and treats the many former Eurovision winners and contestants who appear in the film with dignity. Even Iceland, the country from which Will Ferrel’s character supposedly hails, comes out of this looking fine. Gorgeous shots of Iceland’s natural beauty frame the film and Rachel McAdams song, partially in Icelandic, extolling the beauty and virtues of her homeland moved me to tears. Even Iceland’s surprisingly common continued belief in the existence of elves or huldufólk is treated seriously.
There’s nothing in this movie you probably haven’t seen before, the underdogs underdog their way into getting everything they deserve, even if sometimes they get what they need more than what they want. It’s cheesy, it’s easy, it’s heartwarming, and the songs are just catchy enough. What’s really worth sticking around for is Will Ferrell’s interactions with groups of American tourists whether he’s lambasting them with a series of wild insults or struggling to ingratiate himself to them with references to American pop culture. These scenes alone justify the movie.