In the absence of a proper Eurovision Song Contest, “The Story of Fire Saga” was highly anticipated by content starved Eurovision fans. To their delight, and in contradiction to the movie’s own jokes, the Americans didn’t ruin it. “The Story of Fire Saga” is a fun movie which provides some classic Will Ferrell moments whilst also paying a respectful homage to Eurovision culture
The film tells the story of Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel MacAdams) as Icelandic contestants ‘Fire Saga’ as they compete to win Eurovision. Unfortunately the film’s start drags on, needlessly spending time not at Eurovision but in Iceland, developing the family and friends with little influence later in the movie. Notably, after the initial laugh, Pierce Brosnan’s character as emotionless, extremely good looking fisherman, get tired pretty quickly, and his story arc resolution, marrying Sigit’s mother feels rushed and pointless, serving only to add a subtle punchline to Lars’ frequent brother-sister joke. It’s all juts a little too clever.
Where the movie drags on, Will Ferrell’s Anchorman style improvisations are used to inject a bit of life and remind viewers the film is a comedy, unfortunately the familiar randomness fails to pack the same laugh out loud punch it once did. Almost playing catch up, the pacing later in the film becomes almost too quick, with almost unbelievable leaps in faith required by the audience and keep the story moving once Fire Saga reach Eurovision. Audiences aren’t given compelling reasons as to why Russian contestant Alexander wants so desperately to sing with Sigrit or why Greek contestant Mita wants sleep with Lars. This is a shame because it is once at Eurovision that the film needed to shine.
When Netflix announced the production of “The Story of Fire Saga” alongside their deal to broadcast Eurovision into the United States. This was a big deal, and the first time a major network was looking to seriously invest in taking Eurovision across the Atlantic. This next step in Eurovisions expansion followed Australia entry into the competition and whispers about global editions of the contest (Asia and America) in production. This also meant that implicit Eurovision marketing was going to be as heavily scrutinsed as the film story and production.
Thankfully, except for some leaps of faith required by viewers, the film generally strikes a good balance between progressing the story and introducing viewers to the contest. The competition format is used to anchor major plot points and topical Eurovision themes add depth to the film. Once at Eurovision Fire Saga’s story explores the importance of native language songs, politicisation of sexual identity though Russia’s closeted contestant Alexander, nonsensical bloc voting, and even the European disdain of America’s cultural interference.
Eurovision fans will also be delighted with more direct Eurovision elements including Salvidor Sobral’s performance during the host city tour montage, Graham Norton, WiwiBlogs, the Ukrainian hamster wheel and cameos galore at the contestant party. The contestant party in particular is a stand out moment in the film seamlessly driving the story, providing laughs and entertainment without overwhelming non-Eurovision fans. Unfortuantely the scene is the only one that comes close to capturing a sense of back-stage magic unique to Eurovision, further exploration of the legendary show-week chaos would have been well placed in “The Story of Fire Saga”, with rehearsal scenes lacking inter-contestant interaction and studio recording scenes feeling sterile.
Generally though the ‘on-stage’ moments of “The Story of Fire Saga” are spot on featuring unique catastrophes and music that is notably, almost too good, with some of Fire Saga’s songs unnervingly suitable for the real Eurovision. The semi-final hamster wheel failure is a comedic highlight and the final performance disqualification provides a happy ending without resorting to a predictable, and (frankly for ESC fans), disrespectful Eurovision win.
“The Story of Fire Saga” is a fun movie in its own right, however as a Eurovision fan, the film does much more. Providing a respectful homage to its namesake contest and an accessible platform for new fans to appreciate the fun and chaos of Eurovision globally.
Although not a replacement for Eurovision this is the kind of movie you chuck on with a small group of friends you’re too comfortable with because it’s been a big week at work and you just want to switch off and remember there’s some good in the world.