Will Farrell is hilarious. That’s not a controversial opinion. Ron Burgandy. Ricky Bobby. Frank the Tank—he’s a modern comedy legend. Watch his SNL audition with a straight face, I dare you. But that doesn’t mean I automatically love everything he does.
So when I saw that his latest film, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga with Rachel McAdams was the #1 trending movie on Netflix I was skeptical.
But we’d already burned through The Office so we gave it a whirl. And it absolutely knocked me on my ass.
In fact, Eurovision Song Contest might just be the best movie I’ve seen in years. Here’s why you should watch it immediately.
Obviously, spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen it yet, go grab a box of tissues and a sling for your funny bone and come back here in an hour and a half.
Eurovision is so so good
The movie opens with a gut-busting parody of an over-the-top Icelandic pop techno music video for the song, “Volcano Man” complete with glaciers, fjords, panoramic aerial shots, Viking helmets, dramatic zooms, and delightful performances from Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (McAdams).
And it’s glorious.
But anyone can lampoon a Europop techno song. You expect Ferrell to nail this kind of joke. What makes this scene so great is what happens when the song ends.
The camera jumps from the majestic glacier shot to a tight shot of Lars and Sigrit jamming in Lars’ dad’s tiny basement. Lars is wearing a tinfoil Viking hat and Christmas lights and strobes blink to set the mood.
That entire epic music video was all in their imagination. And the jarring shift back to reality (where they’re still having an awesome time) is just so dang enchanting.
You’re immediately immersed in the stunning setting of Iceland, and you dive headfirst into the strong relationship between the lovably quirky characters. We’re just minutes into this movie, and you already have a strong feel for the tone of the film and the eventual arc of this story.
The stage is literally set. And it’s delightful. It actually reminds me of the first time I saw the music video for Owl City’s “Fireflies.”
But it’s not all fun pop songs. Lars has a strained relationship with his disappointed father, and he’s at a crossroads with his career as a musician. We also catch our first glimpse of Sigrit’s unrequited love for Lars whose only goal in life is to win the Eurovision Song Contest.
And again, all of this happens in the opening scenes. That’s great writing.
A story with heart
What’s so interesting about Eurovision Song Contest is how well the pairing of McAdams and Ferrell works. They have incredible chemistry, and their tight-knit collaboration/relationship drives the story.
McAdams “Sigrit” can not only hang with Ferrell’s comedy chops—she’s a comedy heavyweight in her own right. She adds depth and heart that you don’t always see in a comedy this farcical.
Sigrit is complex and sincere and brimming with conflict and longing and doubt. You get her entire backstory in a one-minute conversation with her mom, and it feels genuine. Her willingness to support Lars’ (and her) foolish dream of winning the Eurovision Song Contest no matter what has kept them together all of their lives and it grounds us in this world.
This isn’t your average comedy
It’s easy to compare Eurovision Song Contest to other over-the-top comedies like Zoolander. And I get it. The hamster wheel performance of “Double Trouble” alone is pure slapstick satire gold.
Heck, both Zoolander and Eurovision feature scenes where people die in an explosion (although Eurovision doesn’t include a “freak gasoline fight accident”). Even the central conflicts—a working-class father ashamed of his son’s eccentric dreams and small-town community that rejects the outlandish hopes of our protagonists — are practically identical.
Mugatu was probably in the audience at the Eurovision Song Contest.
But this isn’t just another Will Ferrell comedy.
Lars is silly, sure, but he’s not a buffoon. He’s hilarious but he’s also passionate and vulnerable and flawed.
You want Lars to win the Eurovision Song Contest, but you want him to realize how great his life already is even more. Sigrit loves him. His hometown, Husavik, might be small but it’s gorgeous (I’ve seen it). And he’s been happy for years doing what he loves—writing and performing songs with his soulmate.
Lars has already won everything he could ever hope for. He just has to realize it.
Best moments from Eurovision
I won’t dive into every single beat of this film because this article is already too long. I could write an entire piece about the unbelievably savage roasting Lars lays on the backpacking Americans every single time he sees them. Or the murder elves.
Man, this movie kicks ass.
But the fact that the avalanche of jokes and memorable one-liners never made this movie feel too long is a testament to the writing, editing, and performances of the whole crew. It’s a quotable movie, but it’s not just a 90-minute stand-up routine. It’s a beautiful (and very funny) story of two dreamers against the world.
I was floored by the pacing and scope of the film and how it handled massive set pieces and intimate songwriting scenes with equal ease.
The pacing of the contest is brisk but still satisfying without wasting any time explaining the rules of Eurovision. If you’ve never seen the Eurovision Song Contest before, you’re still fine, and if you’re a life-long fan you appreciate skipping over the exposition for the Americans in the room. It’s actually kind of meta that the movie doesn’t cater to an American audience.
Filmmakers take note. This is how you pace a competition sequence.
The cast and cameos are also A+. Graham Norton is the perfect announcer. The Eurovision contestant cameos are wonderful Easter eggs for die-hard fans. Dan Stevens as the closeted Russian front runner and rival, Lemtov, is spectacular. And Demi Lovato crushes her role as the Icelandic favorite that eventually becomes a fiery prophecy ghost. Seriously, this movie rules.
But the real star of Eurovision is, of course, the music.
The music of Eurovision Song Contest
Every musical performance in this film is stellar. From the flamboyant costumes to the absurd set pieces and pitch-perfect performances of a sexy Greek astronaut, Swedish hip hop star, Finnish foursome, and of course, Lemtov’s “Lion of Love.”
All of it would fit perfectly on the actual Eurovision stage. You feel like you’re rooting for your favorite underdog to win the whole time.
But dear God was that final song incredible.
“Husavik” by Molly Sanden is amazing
I’ve been humming this song the entire time I’ve been writing this article. Heck, I have it playing in split-screen on my iPad right now.
“My hoooooooome town, in my hooooooome town!”
“Husavik” by Molly Sanden is unreal. It’s sweet and strong and anthemic and intimate all at the same time. The simple melody crescendoes into a powerful love letter from a woman who knows who she is and what she wants, and is thankful that she has it.
These two lines alone absolutely tore me apart:
“Where the mountain sings through the screams of seagulls / Where the whales can live cause they’re gentle people”
Tears. Seriously, when she sang in Icelandic, I cried. I cried during a Will Ferrell comedy. 2020 is absolutely buckwild.
Actually, hang on. I’m going to stop typing for a second and go listen to that song again. brb.
Yup. That’s the stuff. Where was I? Oh yeah. I love this movie so dang much.
Side note: Tthe singer, Molly Sanden doesn’t have a music video for “Husavik” on her YouTube channel, for some reason, but she’s still worth checking out. I’m sure she’ll get a million subscribers from this film.
Eurovision Song Contest is way better than it should be
Everyone’s been going through a lot for the past few months. Millions of people have lost their jobs (I did), and hundreds of thousands have lost friends and love ones. We’re also in the middle of some of the most turbulent, but impactful social change we’ve seen in a generation.
The world is fundamentally different than it was just a few weeks ago. And for some insane reason, Eurovision Song Contest resonated with all the feelings I’ve been feeling since things shifted.
And I don’t know why. Something about this movie just sat on my breastbone and made me realize how much I miss…everything.
I miss listening to live music. I miss dreaming about what tomorrow might bring. I miss the people in my life that I took for granted, “knowing” that they’d always be there or that I’d have time to do the things I planned on doing “someday.”
Eurovision is way better than it has any right to be, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to root for something right now. And I’m not alone.
Scroll through the YouTube comments for the “Husavik” video and you’ll see people gushing their (confused) praise for how good this movie is. This movie came out of nowhere exactly when we needed it.
Somehow, Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams turned a goofy film about Eurovision into a cult classic, a la another Ferrell masterpiece, Elf with a sincere story brimming with love, family, and a place to belong.
Actually, both movies have elves in it so maybe that’s the secret. Just put a few elves in your movie and you’ll be just fine.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for a heart-warming story about rediscovering home, family, pursuing your dreams, and singing your effing heart out. If you are too, then you need to watch this movie ASAP. You’ll love it.
Shawn Forno is a freelance copywriter, content manager, travel writer, and blogger with over twelve years of experience. He loves to talk about himself in the third-person and illustrate poems.