When we were teenagers, my friends and I were the biggest Eurovision fans. We got together every year to watch it. We made scorecards and were really clear about what we were looking for in a winner. It was one of the major popular culture events that we really looked forward to. I bloody loved it. Then, a few years ago, Eurovision started taking itself a bit too seriously. Countries suddenly wanted to have good quality songs and think about choreography and staging. It really ruined the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of weirdos on there and some of the staging is fucking insane. Yet, something is missing from it. Eurovision was always mocked for being campy and silly but that was why we loved it. Now it’s had the X-Factor treatment and people seem to be using it as a platform for a singing career. So, I have to wonder why Will Ferrell is setting his sights on it now. It feels as though this film should have come out at least 10/15 years ago. I didn’t want to watch it but I felt I owed it to my past self.
Eurovision is an easy contest to make fun of. Terry Wogan and Graham Norton made it part of their job as commentator for fuck’s sake. There’s just so much nonsense tied up in it that you can’t help but mock it. I mean Eurovision makes fun of itself more often than not. Everyone who has ever presented it has done so under the realisation that it will probably be the most cringe-inducing evening of their career. Yet, we never stop loving it. Even now it’s tried to improve it’s standing, people all over the world tune in to watch the acts performing. It tells you everything that the UK hasn’t won since 1997 yet they regularly put loads of money into it. It’s that good.
Yet, as obvious as it is that Will Ferrell is also a fan, Eurovision Song Contest never manages to reach the same level of fun. Which is insane when you really think about it. For one thing, it’s a European contest that includes several non-European countries. It’s just the film always feels as though it’s holding back. This could be because Will Ferrell has too much love for it or because the film was made in conjunction with the European Broadcasting Union. They are the organisation behind the song contest so it seems unlikely that they were ever going to allow a film to take the piss out them. Have they, perhaps, had too much influence over the final product?
Eurovision has the feel of a traditional Will Ferrell comedy but really diluted. It’s afraid to take anything that could be even remotely mistaken for a risk. Not necessarily a bad thing but, in this case, it means the big laughs don’t come very often. Most of the time it feels too silly or too mean. Take Graham Norton’s cameo. Not only do I have to question why he was there anyway but everything he says just feels off. Norton is known for his cutting remarks during the evening’s events but it’s always in the spirit of the night. It’s said with ultimate affection for the whole process. Everything Norton says about Fire Saga is just cruel. The whole atmosphere feels wrong and against everything Eurovision is about. It almost feels as though, worrying about making fun of the contest itself, Ferrell has pushed too much of the attack onto Fire Saga but they deserve it much less.
For, no matter how ridiculous they are, Lars and Sigrit are well-meaning and sweet. They get into some larger than life mishaps but nothing that would justify the way they are treated. It’s just an easy way to make them more likeable. They are the ultimate underdogs and Hollywood knows the audience roots for the underdogs, right? They’re not even that bad. They’re the misfits in their town because the pair dream of going to Eurovision but they’re not actually that bad. It’s just all so absurd. There’s no real character development to explain why everyone treats them the way they do or why everyone else acts so badly. The whole film is all very one-note and it’s out of tune. Neither Will Ferrell or Rachel McAdams get much chance to bring anything to their duo so you have to feel sorry for the supporting characters.
Eurovision Song Contest was clearly made because it seemed like such an easy and safe subject choice. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. The opening section is too long and too unfunny. The story that takes place in Eurovision is better but still far too distracted. and why the hell do we suddenly have a big group song and dance number in the middle of it all? It doesn’t add anything and it just feels like a lazy Pitch Perfect rip-off. It also doesn’t help that it’s so long. It really didn’t need to go through so many stages and back and forths. We all know where this is going and there aren’t nearly enough jokes to warrant the added run time. It feels as though Ferrell was just given free reign here but it just hasn’t come together. The tone is wrong, the narrative is dull, and the comedy is MIA. I always knew this was going to be bad but I hoped it would be better than this.