Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams hit almost all the high notes.
Will Ferrell has had a complicated film career, lately. In fact, he’s in free fall. “Get Hard,” “Daddy’s Home,” “Zoolander 2,” “The House,” and “Downhill,” all of which are terrible comedies that wasted his talents, and made him a puppet. And don’t even think about asking me for reviews of “Holmes & Watson” and “Daddy’s Home 2.” In fact, the last 4-star masterpiece he starred in was “The Lego Movie,” which had him voicing the bad guy President Business and a live-action father.
We all wonder: what happened to him? Where is he going? Why is he fading? And why we only have to rely on his producing (“Booksmart,” “Vice,” etc.), instead of his acting for him to be talented these days? I think it’s a generation thing or he’s trying too hard to be funny.
His next comedy, “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” is actually his best work in years. Not a colossal comedy at the ranks of “Elf” or “Anchorman,” but it’s still funny and high spirited enough to hold our attention spans.
He and Rachel McAdams play two would-be Eurovision Song Contest winners Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Erickdottir, both of whom are from Iceland and have big dreams. Lars dreams of being a famous singer, despite public ridicule (featuring Pierce Brosnan as his disapproving father), while Sigrit dreams of marrying him. He says they need to concentrate on the music, that’s why they’re not engaged or kissing.
The only reasons why they’ve both been selected to compete for Iceland is because they get randomly picked as the 12th contestants in the Icelandic Song Contest, and the very best singers (featuring Demi Lovato as pop sensation Katiana) get killed in a yacht party explosion.
I’ve never even heard about this real-life event, but I did hear it got cancelled because of you know what. So, director David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) and Will Ferrell (also a co-writer and co-producer) are both able to lampoon the event and singers without desperation or campy behaviors. Yes, the actors sometimes order the ham sandwich and the movie is a bit long (running at 2 hours). But, “Eurovision Song Contest” has a Lonely Island quality to the music and characters that makes them likable, and it has a 2000s feel for Ferrell and McAdams. In fact, they both seem to have fun using Icelandic accents and portraying goofy, but well-meaning characters, as if they were both in an SNL skit.
There are also rules that the father must be disapproving of his son’s dreams, and a Russian macho man (Dan Stevens) sweeping the girl off her feet, but they aren’t mean-spirited or typical. In fact, Brosnan and Stevens have sweet energy in their characters.
Given the circumstances of Ferrell’s recent track record, I’m grateful to find something decent like “Eurovision Song Contest.” It tickles you, even when it tries hard, it moves you, even if you’ve seen the formulas before, and its music covers makes you tap your feet. A little something for fans of “American Idol” or “The Voice” or whatever music contest show is popular these days.
Available on Netflix