When it was announced Netflix were producing a Will Ferrell starring Eurovision comedy, one could be forgiven for having their expectations set at rock-bottom. How could Americans possibly get the intricacies of our beloved continent-wide singing contest? Instead, we got a surprisingly enjoyable and winning comedy out of it, anchored by a tremendous Rachel McAdams’ performance.
Star and producer Will Ferrell and director David Dobkin will get the praise for pulling off the impossible, turning the Eurovision narrative into a Cool Runnings-esque fun for all ages, but McAdams’ performance is truly something else. It’s no secret McAdams’ is great at comedy, her last film, Game Night was a delight, but here McAdams’ is nearly as good as she is in Spotlight, if you can believe that. With the way 2020 is going, don’t be surprised if McAdams’ somehow gets an Oscar nomination.
Ferrell does his usual man-child schtick, which is perfectly attuned to the heightened campiness of the Eurovision, but McAdams’ brings a naïve and sweet innocence which she has mastered over the years, and acts as the perfect foil to Ferrell.
Dan Stevens’ turn as a George Michael style Russian lothario is great fun too, with Pierce Brosnan’s role as the long-suffering father of Ferrell’s character adding some great dourness to proceedings.
For fans of Eurovision, you’re in for a treat. There are cameos from previous winners, Eurovision boss Jon Ola Sand makes a surprise appearance, and Graham Norton adds his usual glass-tongue wit. Scenes were filmed last year at the Eurovision itself, and the film was produced with the support of the ECB. Most crucially, the songs are good.
You get your tortured metaphors, unnecessary key changes, and elaborate stage designs.
The film is at its best when it’s sending up the contest itself. We get a montage of some different countries in the semi-final, and we see a Lordi-style rock band, an over-elaborate Balkan pop song, and a catchy song that will get stuck in your brain for weeks.
For those who were left depressed by the lack of Eurovision this year, this is the next best thing, and will help tide fans over until Rotterdam 2021.
However, that isn’t to say the film doesn’t have its problems. The film is at least 20 minutes too long and follows the sports movie screenplay template almost to a fault. You have the “no one believes in the hero but redeems themselves” trope, the big fight between the two main characters which is resolved in the third act, and the love rival sub-plot.
With that said, not every movie’s screenplay is trying to be Citizen Kane, and this screenplay does the job for what it is. This is the second time Cool Runnings has been invoked in this review, but Eurovision is maybe the closest this generation will get to one. The film is incredibly watchable, and one suspects it will hold up well with repeat viewings.
If you want 2 hours of loose, sugary cinema, you won’t find much better on Netflix than Eurovision.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.