Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2020. European Broadcasting Union, Gary Sanchez Productions, Gloria Sanchez Productions, Netflix, Truenorth Productions. Screenplay by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele. Cinematography by Danny Cohen. Produced by Jessica Elbaum, Eitan Evan, Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy. Music by Atli Orvarsson. Production Design by Paul Inglis. Costume Design by Anna B. Sheppard. Film Editing by Greg Hayden. Academy Awards 2020.
A very good opportunity is wasted in this bland spoof of the colourful and sometimes unbelievable acts that grace the stages of the annual continental song contest. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play Icelandic hopefuls whose talents are underappreciated by their peers but, thanks to a giant explosion that kills all their competitors, end up being Iceland’s entry into Eurovision. Traveling to Edinburgh to try and at least make it to the semifinals, the couple’s personal issues, particularly their differing ideas of what it means to win, work against them as they struggle to keep their heads against impressive competition (including a hilarious Dan Stevens as a sexually ambiguous Russian crooner). Musicals being filmed by directors who clearly can’t stand musicals are hard to enjoy, a central number that involves the very welcome appearance of real Eurovision winners of the past should be far more exuberant than what we have here, with David Dobkin rushing to get through songs to get back to Ferrell’s mind-numbing and, frankly, unimaginative comedic riffing. The star’s character is not the slightest bit different from the kind of schtick he has already lain down in a number of similar comedies, while McAdams is ambivalent about going between SNL skit acting and, when Ferrell’s not around, behaving like a real human being. The middle ground between comforting and cringeworthy that Eurovision provides for its most ardent fans isn’t really nailed here, the film can never decide if it admires its participants or is making fun of them, relying instead on lowbrow physical humour (that admittedly is sometimes funny, like a tragic accident involving a giant hamster wheel), stupid caricatures and bad accents (it turns out Pierce Brosnan, as Ferrell’s dad, is far better at singing than he is at sounding Scandinavian). A film that purposely commits to a flimsy, paint-by-numbers plot that is merely there as an excuse for silly jokes and songs should not be a ridiculous two hours long, and Dobin and Ferrell’s obnoxious inability to realize this is the part that hurts the most.