The pleasure of doing karaoke has nothing to do with wanting cool or essentially even hitting the proper notes — it’s about leaving inhibitions behind and giving your all to the second. Simplistic as it would sound, it’s nearly having enjoyable. That sense of pure, unironic pleasure is what makes Netflix’s new musical comedy Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga actually sing. Director David Dobkin doesn’t land each single beat, however he faucets into that effectively of carefree exultation so potently that the film’s stumbles hardly register.
In the primary moments of the movie, a younger boy is entranced by ABBA’s efficiency of “Waterloo” within the real-life 1974 Eurovision contest. (The occasion, which has been occurring since 1956, requires European international locations to submit musical acts to compete.) There’s no irony to his adoration of the group’s poppy music or glittery costumes; when the adults round him snigger at his enthusiasm, he yells at them to chop it out. One day, he says, he’ll be the one acting on the Eurovision stage.
Fast-forward to the current day, and Lars (Will Ferrell) nonetheless desires of competing. His father Erick (Pierce Brosnan, solely 15 years older than Ferrell) disapproves, however Lars is buoyed alongside by his childhood greatest buddy and present musical accomplice Sigrit (Rachel McAdams). Their band, Fire Saga, solely ever performs in Erick’s storage and within the native pub, however an opportunity collection of occasions provides them a shot at Eurovision fame and fortune.
It’s straightforward to guess the place the story is headed at any given time, and a number of the jokes, from a script written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele, invite sighs quite than laughs. But the clunkers fade from reminiscence as quickly because the characters open their mouths to sing. The songs — Fire Saga’s, and each different competitor’s — are legitimately catchy, which is startling for any film that isn’t a strict musical, however much less so provided that they’re written by the likes of Savan Kotecha (Katy Perry’s “Rise,” a lot of Ariana Grande’s Sweetener) and Andreas Carlsson (the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”). The music hasn’t been half-assed; like all the things else within the movie, the songs have been crafted with love.
The solid is equally dedicated, notably McAdams, who has to promote Sigrit’s devotion to Lars (and her perception in elves) with out making her out to be an entire idiot. The spotlight, nonetheless, is Dan Stevens’ efficiency as Alexander Lemtov, a Russian singer additionally competing in Eurovision. Lemtov is as theatrical as they arrive — his music, “Lion Of Love,” entails plenty of suggestive motion and shirt-ripping — and Stevens leans totally into the preening, wiggling his eyebrows and winking like some sort of flirting machine. But that oversized presence doesn’t reduce the affect of a later revelation about his private life. These characters appear foolish, however that doesn’t imply they aren’t price contemplating with empathy and care.
To that finish, Eurovision remembers motion pictures like Mamma Mia! and The Greatest Showman, which can’t be loved whereas clinging to any vestige of irony. There’s no such factor as a responsible pleasure, so far as these motion pictures are involved; there’s solely pleasure. It’s a degree greatest made by a “song-along” midway by the movie, wherein Lars and Sigrit find yourself at a large home social gathering together with previous, real-life Eurovision contestants like Conchita Wurst, John Lundvik, Bilal Hassani, and Netta. The singers harmonize as they mix songs collectively within the sort of mash-up (“Believe,” “Waterloo,” “Ray of Light,” “I Gotta Feeling,” “Ne Partez pas Sans Moi”) that Glee might solely dream of. They’re all tacky, glittery songs, however there’s no pooh-poohing them for the sake of extra “serious” artwork, right here. Instead, the second is triumphant. (Eurovision rambles a bit greater than Mamma Mia!, however Dobkin fortunately takes it much less severely than director Michael Gracey took The Greatest Showman.)
There are definitely moments the place Eurovision drags, however as a de facto substitute for this yr’s pandemic-cancelled contest, it’s greater than appropriate. Dobkin and firm utterly perceive that the real-life contest is extensively beloved due to its pure ardour quite than as one thing to be gawked at and mocked. The film embraces that wholehearted earnestness, and the result’s an endearingly foolish however by no means cynical comedy with songs as memorable as something that’s been carried out within the real-life contest.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is streaming on Netflix now.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. For extra data, see our ethics coverage.