Directed by: David Dobkin
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Pierce Brosnan
Released in: 2020
I’m a big fan of Eurovision. A big fan. I’ve watched it religiously every year since 2009, and I spend the month of May blasting Eurovision classics, from Abba’s Waterloo to Netta’s I’m Not Your Toy. And I was absolutely terrified of this film coming out. My mind cast back to the last time an American was involved in the competition. Madonna. The Queen of Pop. Her half time act was a one-million-euro failure, filled with out of tune singing and political statements which would have got her disqualified. It felt like a confirmation that America just couldn’t do Eurovision. Thankfully, this American film comes across as a labour of love. This is made by people who genuinely understand and love the contest
This is the saga of Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams), two musicians from a small Icelandic town who have a big dream. After watching Abba perform Waterloo, they become obsessed with the contest and Lars, in particular, dreams of winning. They miraculously make the cut to get into the ESC, and it’s clear that they’re the underdogs from the start. Lars is obsessed with getting his hands on the Eurovision trophy, even though it’s clear that the point of the contest isn’t winning.
There’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour in the casting. Pierce Brosnan stars as Lars’ grumpy Icelandic dad. It’s a flashback from his role in Mamma Mia, which despite its Greek location, is really a Eurovision film. Dan Stevens as Alexander Lemtov really steals the show, as the extremely flamboyant, attractive Russian contestant. His song not only sounds like a Eurovision song, but it genuinely sounds like something that could actually win. BBC bosses, we haven’t won the competition since 1997, maybe we should hire Dan? Rachel McAdams is excellent as Sigrit, who has been in love with Lars since forever. Will Ferrell, in contrast, is not good opposite McAdams. His character ignores Sigrit’s complaints and is pretty unlikeable throughout the film. You can’t really comprehend why Sigrit wants to spend her life with him. Unfortunately, most of the film is rather unfunny, and this is by and large down to Ferrell’s character, who has lines like “I describe my penis as a Volvo.” As a result, the funniest thing in the film is the location of grand finale. In this film, it’s Edinburgh, suggesting that the UK actually won the year before.
What’s really pleasant about this film is that it’s honest about its love for the competition. Alexander Rybak, Conchita Wurst and Netta all make an appearance. Graham Norton takes centre stage later, and along with Dan Stevens, he is the wittiest in the film. Salvador Sobral sings his winning song on an Edinburgh street. It’s all very wholesome. And just like the real ending of Eurovision, there was confetti raining down from the ceiling, and I may have shed a tear.
While Netflix’s attempt at wooing Eurovision Fans was on par with this year’s Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light; nobody rose like a phoenix. Instead of Iceland winning the competition this year, we got this film, which will probably just about tide my Eurovision hunger until next year.