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Netflix Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

April 20, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

2021 Academy Award nominee for Best Original Song – “Husavik (My Hometown)”

It’s hard to talk about the musical comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga without talking about “Husavik (My Hometown),” the rousing power ballad that has gotten the film a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

A touching tribute to the small Icelandic town of Husavik, where the film’s main characters Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) hail from, the song is performed at a key moment in the film, and despite being the centrepiece of a Europop parody, it’s actually genuinely inspiring. But to fully appreciate that you must know what comes before.

You see, Lars has always wanted to compete in Eurovision, a dream that started when he was a little boy in Husavik, and saw ABBA performing their song “Waterloo” on TV. He formed the band Fire Saga with his childhood friend Sigrit, who’s “probably not his sister,” but the only gigs they get are at the local bar. The trouble is that nobody really takes them seriously. The crowd only ever wants to hear their song “JaJa Ding Dong,” and isn’t interested in their other music.

The only thing that Lars has ever really wanted is to make his tough fisherman father (Pierce Brosnan) proud of him, but even he is dismissive of his son’s musical aspirations. Lo and behold, when a freak accident leaves Fire Saga as the only performers left from Iceland, Lars and Sigrit are on their way to Edinburgh, Scotland for the competition. It’s here they encounter the arrogant Russian competitor Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens), who starts hitting on Sigrit and threatens to throw the duo off their game, which leads to a series of comical twists and turns.

You can tell that everyone involved is simply having a good time. Ferrell’s longhaired Lars is one of those slightly dimwitted, single-focused characters that he plays so well. McAdams balances this out with her genuinely sweet portrayal of Sigrit, whose sincere belief in elves is one of her most charming character traits. And then there’s Stevens, who camps it up to a delightful degree as the flamboyant Lemtov, whose act involving shirtless dancing men is clearly homoerotic, yet can’t actually be labelled as such because he is performing on behalf of homophobic Russia. It’s a great running gag that actually pays off in a surprisingly poignant way.

Directed by David Dobkin, who is perhaps best known for directing Wedding Crashers, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is one of those films that knows exactly what it is trying to be, and it is incredibly enjoyable to watch. The film works as a sendup of the real Eurovision contest, sure, but it also serves as a goofy and good-natured celebration of it. Like with other musical spoofs such as A Mighty Wind and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the parody songs here are often inspired and key to the film’s success.

Which brings us right back to “Husavik (My Hometown).” Without giving away the details, the heartfelt song is performed at a key point in the last act. It’s the rousing moment that the film has been building up to all along, and it’s impossible not to feel a swell of emotion when it finally happens. And the song itself is genuinely good. This is the sort of parody of a power ballad that circles right back around to being a loving tribute to one instead, and this is what makes it so great. The sincerity of the song, which balances out the ridiculousness of much of what comes before it, is simply irresistible.

Before watching the film, I was wondering if the song’s Oscar nomination was some kind of joke. But after watching it, I can safely say that not only does the song deserve to be nominated, but it deserves to win. Yes, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is campy and cheesy and over the top, but this is all part of its charm. This is one of those films that left me with a big, goofy grin on my face, and for that I am grateful.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.

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