Sunday, 5 July 2020

Review: Eurovision Song Contest - The Story Of Fire Saga

Eurovision Song Contest:
The Story Of Fire Saga

Cert: TBC / 123 mins / Dir. David Dobkin / Trailer

We live in interesting times of course*1, and the movie distribution business is in something of a state of flux. Cinema releases are being either delayed or hurried forward to VOD, while streaming platforms find their original content presented to a larger audience than probably imagined during each title's production. Sticking its head above the parapet is David (Wedding Crashers) Dobkin's Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga, a comedy co-written by Andrew (Saturday Night Live) Steele.

Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdottir. A pair of aspiring, if flawed, musicians from a small fishing community in Iceland, they enter the famed eponymous competition and find themselves at previously unimagined heights when a terrible accident befalls the other competitors. Pierce Brosnan plays Ferrell's gruff father Erick, Dan Stevens appears as the wolfishly flamboyant Russian entrant Alexander Lemtov, with supporting roles from Melissanthi Mahut, Demi Lovato and even Graham Norton, as well as a swathe of cameo appearances from Eurovision stars of recent years.


Let's keep this brief. What should be an kitsch, undemanding, underdog comedy quickly becomes a tactless, lumbering farce played out by a cast who resort to yelling louder the more unfunny the dialogue becomes; a series of badly improvised sketches edited together by someone who spent half of the story-meetings asleep*2. Fans of dodgy accents, dodgy wigs and levels of innuendo that a five year old would find a bit too on-the-nose will find much to enjoy.

The rest of us, meanwhile, have our endurance tested with an 85-minute straight-to-video movie which runs, somehow, at just over two gruelling hours. From a story point of view, this is that episode of Father Ted meets Spinal Tap, but with the charm and wit of neither. In fact, you could just watch those two back to back and save yourself 16 minutes.


As is always the case, I deliberately haven't read much in the way of reaction to this movie prior to watching. But I have heard that the more a viewer enjoys actual Eurovision, the more they'll get out of this. Now I'm not particularly a fan of the annual song competition myself, but I don't dislike it anywhere near as much as I roundly despised The Story Of Fire Saga. Mrs Blackout, however, is a huge fan, and she also struggled with the film. This isn't terrible because of its subject matter; it's terrible because it's just sloppily made.

It isn't a celebration of Eurovision, it's not even a celebration of its own cast. Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams are better than this. Will Ferrell is not. Because of course he co-wrote it. In fact, this is the mortifying, bellowing, mid-life crisis equivalent of Ben Stiller skateboarding past a volcano*3, like we're getting a glimpse into Will's psyche and it's even more laboured and self-indulgently cack handed than anyone could have imagined. Well now that's out in the world and it can't be denied or un-seen. More's the pity.

Credit where it's due, David Dobkin has delivered precisely what Netflix ordered; a music-based comedy which is perfect for people who like neither music nor comedy.

Will Ferrell is the new Adam Sandler. Fuck this movie.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
I have no clue. Seriously.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Let's not go there, right now. Literally..

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Uncredited Naboo Holy Man turned Jedi Knight is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…*4

*1 It has of course been more than a little quiet round Blackout Towers of late. Since the cinema closed its doors, it's not so much that I've had nothing to watch, more that I've found myself with an absolute dearth of concentration with which to analyse and properly enjoy new content. Working-from-home has meant I haven't suddenly discovered a new burst of downtime (quite the opposite, if anything), and my main source of therapy from the raging trashfire which is 2020 has come in the form of the vintage TV review podcast which I've recorded with my partner in audiophonic crime. And which you should definitely listen to.

But as I look towards my local opening its doors at the end of the month (which is still subject to change of course), I figure I'd better try and get back in the swing of things. So here we are, and what a way to begin... [ BACK ]

*2 And bonus minus-points for the sheer number of conversation scenes where we cut to an angle with the camera behind the actor who's still speaking, while their jaw resolutely fails to move because this was an extended reaction-shot dropped into the edit at the last minute after what one can only assume was "extensive ADR work to try and beef up what passes for a script".
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*3 And bear in mind I say this as a man in his forties who's currently growing his hair long. [ BACK ]

*4 Because of course I don't "do" zero points, on account of the filmmakers at least having finished a product and got it out there, however dreadful the end result is. And that's sort of a shame as the Eurovision setting would have been perfect for a "nul points" gag, but that would have meant me making a new card-insert just for this review and quite frankly The Story Of Fire Saga isn't worth the effort. Besides, as much as I loathe this, it's still nowhere near as hateful as C.H.i.P.s, and that got 1/7.
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• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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