26 June 2020 20:35
Poor old Graham Norton. After years as the highlight of Eurovision coverage on British TV, wryly poking fun at the often absurd and melodramatic scenes the cult song contest serves up, he's been handed a dud role in Will Ferrell's latest two-hour movie that probably should have been a four-minute sketch. He plays himself, commentating over performances in a cameo as in real life, which sounds fun until you realise he's a comedian in a world in which the very specific kind of humour surrounding the show has been sapped out and replaced with something else entirely: Ferrell's own tried-and-tested, cut-and-paste buffoonery. Here, Eurovision is what ice skating was to Blades Of Glory and basketball was to Semi-Pro: a vehicle for Ferrell and a setting in a story that skews bizarrely toward the dramatic end of things. It's worth noting up front that Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga is a brand-approved spoof: Ferrell, who cowrote the film and stars alongside Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan (whose proclivity for Abba-inspired films has not gone unnoticed), was given permission to film at the 2018 edition and a host of past Eurovision winners are rolled out in a jarring singalong partway through the film.
In theory the satirical edges have been sanded down in order to maintain that relationship, but perhaps the real issue is that Eurovision is beyond parody, in part because it is actually quite self-aware, but also because broadcasters – such as Norton himself – have been taking the piss out of it quite adequately for years. And yet, it could have been far worse than it is. The film kicks off with a flashback to the most famous Eurovision performance of all-time: it's 1974, Abba are performing "Waterloo" and a young dreamer in Iceland (Ferrell's Lars, here played by a child actor) is watching the performance on TV with his family (including his grumpy father, played by a bearded Brosnan). It sparks something inside him: a desire to make music and to ultimately win the competition, which he sees as the pinnacle of all musical performance. Flash-forward more than 40 years later and he hasn't come anywhere near achieving his goal. He's playing depressing gigs in a local pub with his bandmate, childhood friend and love interest Sigrit (McAdams) – they call themselves Fire Saga – sending off hopeful tapes to the Icelandic show that decides the nation's entry. But then, out of nowhere, by a series of apparently comical mishaps, he and Sigrit end up qualifying for the thing, despite being woefully unprepared. There, they meet Russia's entry, Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens doing a Borat impression), and a host of other fairly believable Eurovision contestant stand-ins, few of who get any meaningful screen time. The central duo's romance takes far more precedence in the story than you might expect or desire it to. Apparently, Sigrit has been in love with Lars for years, but he has been so focused upon his dream that he has shut down any romantic advances, fearing the damage it might cause their musical connection (there's also a running joke that they might be brother and sister). Lemtov soon comes between them, after taking a liking to Sigrit, setting up the inevitable fallout and necessary dramatic tension. Side plots, such as an Icelandic finance minister's plot to sabotage Fire Saga's chances of winning as he believes the country would be financially ruined by having to host the event the following year (as is customary with all winners) and Lars' troubled relationship with his father, are more than a little underdeveloped. © John Wilson/NETFLIX While the movie does little to justify its existence as anything other than an elongated Eurovision advertisement for uninitiated Americans, it does have its bright sparks. For one, it makes the show look like a lot of fun and the soundtrack – which was crafted by Ariana Grande-collaborator Savan Kotecha – is actually quite good. The songs themselves are not played for laughs and My Marianne, the singer whose voice McAdams borrows (Ferrell mostly does semi-serious backing vocals), is clearly very talented. There are also some great cameo performances from British brother and sister duo Jamie and Natasia Demetriou as stage co-ordinators. The funniest sequence in the film (which is not without laughs, but certainly short on them) sees Ferrell berate a group of American tourists for coming to Europe and "shitting on everything" – it's appropriately self-deprecating. But by the time you get to see Norton deliver lines without any jokes in them, you might wish you were just watching the real thing. Now read Netflix's Floor Is Lava is the worst-best show on TV In Praise of Michaela Coel Why The Great is the funniest TV show of 2020 by far Sign up to FREE email alerts from EdinburghLive - Daily News Subscribe Thank you for subscribing See our privacy notice Invalid Email Eurovision may not have gone ahead this year, but fans will now be able to indulge in a fictional version. Last year, Hollywood actor Will Ferrell practically became an Edinburgh resident while filming his new Eurovision movie in the capital. He was spotted grabbing a bite to eat in Brown's on George Street and was often seen scooting around Edinburgh's Calton Hill on a segway as he filmed scenes for the movie. Now we can finally see what all the fuss was about as Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga has officially been released on Netflix today. Will Ferrell stars alongside Mean Girls actress Rachel McAdams and although shot in Edinburgh the story is actually set in Iceland. Ferrell also has a co-writing credit on the film, which was originally scheduled for release in May to coincide with the real Eurovision Song Contest before its postponement. Have you seen it? Let us know what you think in the comments! by Guy Pewsey | Put Rachel McAdams in a film, and we're tuning in. Mean Girls. The Notebook. Spotlight. Red Eye. She has impeccable taste when choosing her projects. The same can be said for her latest film, Netflix original Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. It's a light, earnest and entertaining exploration of the annual music sensation, and we're already adding it to our guilty pleasure watch list. But you might be disappointed to discover that the beautiful singing voice featured in the film is not actually Rachel's. The actress plays Sigrit, an Icelandic singer who's part of a duo completed by Will Ferrell's hapless character. They dream of Eurovision success, and they sing several songs on their journey to the competition. But while Will sings his own vocals, Rachel is dubbed for her performances, including the film's opener, Volcano Man. Her voice is replaced by that of Molly "My Marianne" Sanden, a Swedish singer. She has, funnily enough, participated in the Eurovision Song Contest several times. In 2006, she came third in the Junior contest, and then represented Sweden at the main event an impressive three times, in 2009, 2012, and 2016. Dubbing vocals in film is more common than you might realise. The Greatest Showman, the 2017 musical about circus magnate P T Barnum, cast Rebecca Ferguson as renowned opera singer Jenny Lind. Her vocals, however – for absolute banger Never Enough – were provided by Loren Allred. And our favourite example is undoubtedly from Sister Act, the 1992 comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg. If you were surprised to hear the almost impossibly powerful, belting voice emerge from mousey redhead Sister Mary Robert, then that's because she's not actually singing. A woman named Andrea Robinson is. Nor is Rachel the only star of the film to have had a little help. Dan Stevens, the Downton Abbey actor who plays a Russian contestant, is also dubbed. The film also stars Demi Lovato - who naturally sings for herself - and Pierce Brosnan, who doesn't get round to singing at all. Anyone who heard his efforts in Mamma Mia may be a little bit relieved. We still love you though, Pierce.