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Hair twinning with Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams
If you think that the Eurovision Song Contest is a bit of a joke over here, imagine what it must look like to Americans. The sheer campiness, joy and pure ridiculousness of it surely makes it immune to parody, even with your tongue firmly in your cheek. It clearly sparked something in Will Ferrell however who decided to base his latest movie around it.
How we perceive the Eurovision Song Contest is all a matter of taste, or lack thereof according to some folks. Personally, I adore it and for all intents and purposes, this film is a love letter to Eurovision. Of course it’s light-hearted and silly with plenty of moments of fantasy and pathos but ultimately it treats the subject matter with affection.
Ferrell takes aim
Anyone who is a fan of Will Ferrell’s work will know what you’re going to be getting here. It is to Eurovision what Blades Of Glory was to ice skating or Anchorman was to news broadcasting or…you get the idea.
Originally due to be nationally released to coincide with the real contest in May, Covid-19 meant it was released on Netflix on June 26th
Pierce Brosnan pulls more than pints with his silver fox look
The film opens on the picturesque Icelandic town of Husavik which is so beautifully shot its bound to result in a surge of tourism after the pandemic. We’re introduced to an Icelandic family in 1974 watching the song contest on a tiny TV. A bearded and youngified Pierce Brosnan (underused yet gruff and sexy) tells his young son to stop making a fool of himself as he dances in front of the TV to ABBA. Sound familiar?
All about the music
Cut to Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Erickdóttir (a luminescent Rachel McAdams) in a lavish video scape but it is in fact only in their minds as really, they are in Lars’ father’s basement. As it turns out, the song is very Eurovision and it’s clear they’ve done their research.
The music is excellent throughout, they’ve put a lot of effort into creating authentic Eurovision sounding tunes drafting in Savan Kotecha (Ariana Grande, Madonna, One Direction) to craft some genuinely decent original songs for the soundtrack.
Despite the ropey accents, they aren’t taking the piss. Will Ferrell’s gentle leg pulling and child-like acting we’ve seen time and time again but his country boy dreams of winning Eurovision are endearing. ‘You father is ashamed of you’ shouts a villager and you get that classic Ferrell hang dog expression while Sigrit (younger, gorgeous) is inexplicably in love with this middle-aged man who cannot move on from his childhood dream.
There is something sweet and yet sad about Lars on the stage, all wrinkles and blonde wig. Frankly it was making me feel nostalgic for European holidays with the mixture of cultures and the idiosyncrasies.
There’s an element of fantasy looming large in the film too with elves, synchronised whales and set pieces that are in turns as frustratingly ridiculous as they are funny.
Demi Lovato pops up in a cameo as a Eurovision entrant
Whilst this is a film that would rub Eurovision purists up the wrong way and it’s almost certainly a more highbrow audience’s worst nightmare, somehow it manages to fit into Ferrell’s ‘world’. Spoiler alert - they do make it to the song contest itself in Edinburgh (similarly stunningly shot) where things go from madcap to bizarre by turns.
Having been to the actual song contest in the past, they’ve done an incredible job of creating a ‘buzz’ around the host city and the venues themselves. The fact that there are quarter and semi-finals is made clear to people that wouldn’t know and while some of the explanations are clearly for an audience that has never seen one, they are light of touch rather than jarring.
Ferrell also does a great job of sending up the European views on American tourists as well, a joke which runs throughout the film.
Plenty of man flesh with Dan Stevens and pals
To top it off, Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens puts in a sterling performance, hamming it up as Russian closeted lothario and love rival to Ferrell's Lars who comes across as selfish and petty on more than one occasion. Eurovision itself must have been on board as the logo is used and even Graham Norton pops up to give his usual acerbic commentary.
Stevens gets a fantastic line that is so niche it would fly over any American viewers heads, he points out the UK entrant at a party quipping ‘she’s quite good but everybody hates UK so no points!’ Anyone who’s felt the pain of sitting through a ‘nil points’ song contest at a Eurovision party will know this all too well.
Cranking out the classics
The aforementioned party however is electric. There is a musical number taking in classics by (deep breath) Madonna, Cher, Black Eyed Peas and Abba so mind-blowingly performed by a selection of recognisable Eurovision alumni who I wouldn’t dare to name for risk of spoiling it. It is worth watching the film just for this medley and I hope it’s available when the karaoke bars are up and running again.
There are of course a few bits where you simply have to suspend your disbelief to far reaching levels but there are kernels of truth in everything that happens should you care to look into Eurovision history.
At over two hours the film is overly long and could have done without the some of the to-ing and fro-ing with the same bit of storyline but ultimately if you’re a fan of Will Ferrell or Eurovision, or better yet, both, you will find something to love in this. I’m not going to say it makes up for the lack of Eurovision this year… but almost.