As someone that has never watched a single episode of American Idol, even when a friend’s son was on it (Adam Lambert, who now sings for Queen)…I certainly never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s been going on since 1956, and over 50 countries submit a group to perform an original song. Some of the contestants in previous years included Julio Iglesias, Lulu, Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, and Abba. The fictitious story stars as Abba wins in 1974 inspiring a young boy with their performance of “Waterloo.” He tells his dad (Pierce Brosnan) he’ll someday win the contest. We fast-forward to Lars (Will Ferrell) still living with his dad, just like a character in Step Brothers. Step Brothers was hysterical. This story is Blades of Glory meets Spinal Tap, with only a couple of jokes and set pieces that are humorous (one being the opening song, where we see Ferrell making weird sounds with his mouth, and a funny video).
You could see why Farrell wanted to parody this real-life contest. The bands are mostly European-based, with wacky costumes and weird electronic sounds. And he’s probably a fan of Christopher Guest’s Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind, as well as Popstar: Never Stop Stopping, Walk Hard, and a few other music parody flicks.
I don’t blame Rachel McAdams for being in this. She was funny in the hysterical Game Night last year. Her character Sigrit wants to make beautiful music (and love) to her partner Lars (Ferrell). Their band is called “Fire Saga” and they’re relegated to playing cover songs in the town pub.
Demi Lovato plays a character who’s the favorite act from Iceland, so…it will be tough for them to win. Unless…something happens. And of course, you know something will.
There are some “creative differences” along the way. Lars has ideas for the sound of the song, as well as costumes and a dance routine. There’s also a Russian guy named Alexander (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey, who steals the show). He has eyes for Sigrit, and wants the two to break up. The singer from Israel (Melissanthi Mahut) has eyes for Lars, although that never really makes sense; but not much of this movie really does.
Director David Dobkin and Ferrell wrote this together, and it’s a disaster. There’s some fun in their being shocked by the length of champagne glasses. There’s a great bit with a superstition involving elves, and the conclusion of that is funny. I also laughed at the few scenes involving Americans that get under Lars’ skin.
A lot of times when a movie from a former Saturday Night Live performer is bad, the critics will say “This would have been funny as a short skit on SNL.” I’ve said that very thing about some movies. Yet I don’t think this two hour movie would have even worked as a skit on SNL. Lorne Michaels wouldn’t have approved it.
The thing I liked most about this movie is it made me think about things I love. Step Brothers, for obvious reasons (one scene has his dad saying he’s going to sell the house, and Lars said “Where will I live?”). The bit with Lars flying out of a volcano during their song “Volcano Man” — made me think of Liz Phair’s great song “Supernova.”
And when Sigrit sarcastically says she feels sorry for people that died on a boat, it reminded me of how she said that in Date Night when the bad guy she was fighting got sucked into an airplane engine.
This movie is a disjointed mess. Unless you love everything Will Ferrell does, then this is for you.
You can catch it on Netflix, starting this weekend.
1 ½ stars out of 5.