Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as two Icelanders searching for Eurovision glory.
Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams) are childhood friends who perform as the band “Fire Saga.” Lars, having fallen in love with music after hearing ABBA’s performance of “Waterloo” at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, dreams of winning Eurovision, much to the chagrin of his widowed fisherman father, Erick (Pierce Brosnan). He and Sigrit enter a song in the Icelandic pre-selection contest and are picked at random to compete. Their performance goes horribly wrong and the singer Katiana (Demi Lovato) is picked to compete for Eurovision, but all of the other contestants are killed by an explosion at the after-party, sending Fire Saga to Eurovision. There, they must compete against all of Europe, including the cocky Russian Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) and the sultry Greek Mita (Melissanthi Mahut). The pair must sing their hearts out, mostly to overcome their own incompetence at performing, if they hope to win.
I’ve always been a fan of Will Ferrell, so when this movie suddenly (at least to me) dropped on Netflix, I knew I was going to have to watch it. Given that the last few films I had seen of his (Downhill, Holmes & Watson, and Daddy’s Home 2) were flaming bags of crap, I will admit that I had braced myself for a catastrophe, particularly since the critics had been taking potshots at this film already. Maybe it was just the lowered expectations, but I really liked this movie.
A big part of why this movie works is that it always feels sincere. It never seems like Lars’ obsession with Eurovision is false or forced, instead we see where it comes from and, rather than having it told to us directly, we get that this is something he has used as a surrogate for the love his family stopped providing. Will Ferrell has frequently played childish characters with over-the-top dreams well, and this is another one of those. The key is that Fire Saga actually has a lot of talent, meaning that it’s never a completely ridiculous idea that they could get a big break. They don’t perform well, often due to the fact that their local audience just wants to hear the same few drinking songs (including the super catchy “Ya Ya, Ding Dong”), but they clearly have the ability to make good music.
The movie is also just the right level of surreal and goofy. A lot of the humor comes from watching Lars be the butt of his own hubris, but also sometimes it’s just from the absurd situations. A few times, the film just flat-out abandons reality for a joke or a fun scene, but it doesn’t really stop the movie from quickly getting back on track. For example, there’s a massive musical number in the film that includes a number of past contestants and winners from Eurovision, but it fits perfectly in context.
The only problem I could really point to in why some people might not like the movie is that it is about 2 hours long and that meant that they shoved in a number of strange subplots that might not be worth it. For example, we see a number of scenes in which a member of the Central Bank of Iceland keeps pointing out that, if Fire Saga wins, the country would go broke from trying to host the next year. There are too many of these scenes and, honestly, while it does have a hilarious payoff at the end, it’s still a dumb subplot (particularly since countries have declined to host in the past due to the financial burden). They could have cut it down by a bit and kept the film tighter. Still, I never felt bored in the movie, so I don’t think it’s necessarily too drawn out.
Overall, I liked the movie. I really think it’s just the kind of film that we need right now: Goofy, fun, and containing Rachel McAdams being adorable.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.