Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga: A Goofy Comedy for a Weary World – Netflix Review

Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as two Icelanders searching for Eurovision glory.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

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.

They nailed the costuming already, though. Clearly.

END SUMMARY

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. 

This movie was previously listed among my most hated films.

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. 

They have the passion.

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. 

There’s also a giant hamster wheel.

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.

The songs were really good, too.

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 TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (Season 2): It’s So Fluffy!

We find revelations and some fluffy mutants in this season.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

It’s the future and humanity blew it. After we wrecked the environment, the surviving humans fled underground into “burrows.” Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) was blown out of a burrow when it was attacked by a “mega-mute,” a building-sized mutant animal. Washed to the surface of the post-apocalyptic landscape, Kipo meets the fierce warrior girl Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), the mini mutant pig Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker), the friendly con-man Benson (Coy Stewart), and Benson’s mutant insect pal Dave (Deon Cole). Together, the group managed to return Kipo to her burrow and her father, Lio (Sterling K. Brown), only for him and the rest of the burrow to be kidnapped by the mutant mandrill dictator Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens). However, Kipo has started to develop some strange abilities that might make her the perfect person to save all of the humans.

These kids are alright.

END SUMMARY

When I reviewed the first season of this show, I said that it’s difficult for a show to be set in the post-apocalypse and not get super dark as more and more things are revealed. This season has proven that to be true, as things have gotten a bit darker due to the setting, but the show still overall remains positive. Just as before, the key is that Kipo, Benson, and even Wolf are extremely emotionally resilient. Yes, they get hurt and sometimes suffer a loss of faith, but they quickly fight through it in order to keep going. It helps that the world in which this show is set is a unique kind of charmingly horrifying. Sure, there are giant monsters that hate humans everywhere, but they’re also giant bunnies or frogs wearing suits, so it’s still somewhat goofy and amusing. I think the basic rule is that it’s very hard for something to be both fluffy and depressing.

Cats in plaid can’t be sad.

The show has struck a solid balance between doing relatively self-contained episodes and episodes that advance the overarching narrative, but this season it managed to set up things in some of the more isolated stories that paid off as part of the larger story. It really allows for the show to always feel like it’s progressing while still being able to do some solid world-building. The show is, after all, as much about the crazy world filled with axe-wielding lumberjack cats and mind-eating tardigrades as much as it is about Kipo. 

This season also managed to develop the supporting characters, not just by fleshing out their backstories, but by having them grow emotionally. Benson becomes a little more serious at times and Wolf manages to become a little more trusting and a little less uptight. Even Mandu, a non-verbal animal companion, gets some extra traits over the season.

And the villain gets a TON of development.

Overall, the show is doing a great job. It’s still cute, fun, creative, and entertaining.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection 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.

Netflix Mini-Review: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

A post-apocalyptic fantasy world with a surprising amount of humor and emotion.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s about 2222 AD and humans pretty much screwed everything up, because we’re the bad guys, duh. Most humans now live underground in “burrows” to avoid the giant mutant animals that now rule the surface. Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) is a 12-year-old girl who lives in an underground city called the Clover. One day, she is caught up in a “mute-quake,” an earthquake caused by giant animals, which blows her out of a river to the surface. There, she meets Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), a young girl who manages to survive the dangers of the surface, as well as Benson (Coy Stewart) and his bug best-friend Dave (Deon Cole). There’s also an adorable four-eyed pig named Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker). Together, they accompany Kipo as she tries to reunite with her father (Sterling K. Brown) and her tribe. Along the way, they deal with frogs dressed in Mod clothing, giant bunnies, hyper-intelligent wolves (voiced by GZA and John Hodgman), and the sadistic Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens). 

Image result for kipo and the age of the wonderbeasts
Yes, that’s a giant turtle in the background.

END SUMMARY

It’s hard to set a kids show in the post-apocalypse without it becoming super dark like Adventure Time. There are only 10 episodes up so far and there are already some horrifying elements and implications, but the show thus far is mostly really upbeat. A lot of that comes from the fact that Kipo is relentlessly positive, despite the fact that she is always about 10 seconds from dying horribly. Benson is similarly carefree, which makes them an interesting pair, particularly when contrasted with Wolf who acts serious all the time to compensate for the fact that she’s a little girl surviving on her own. 

Image result for kipo and the age of the wonderbeasts
There are giant cat lumberjacks. Giant. Cat. Lumberjacks.

The series is based on a webcomic and mostly manages to duplicate the art style for animation. It’s very colorful, despite the apocalyptic setting, with a lot of pinks, purples, and blues. It makes it feel less like a dead world and more like a wonderland. There are a ton of sentient and even talking animals, many of which have humorous eccentricities, as well as just horrible mutant animals. The fact that one of the scariest creatures is the MegaBunny is hilarious to me. 

Image result for kipo and the age of the wonderbeasts comic
It’s a giant fluffy wall of doom.

Honestly, it was a fun series and had some good morals. It manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of other Netflix kids shows and perhaps has one of the most inclusive casts without ever making a big deal about it. I recommend it for anyone with kids or for anyone that liked Gravity Falls. It’s not quite at that level, but I think it gets some of the same elements right. Mostly, it’s really only just started and it has a lot of strong worldbuilding and character development, which is impressive for almost any show.  

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection 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.