Review – Ferrell On Fire (“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”)

I never knew this existed! An international song contest featuring 26 European countries that, like our America’s Got Talent, is all about music, talent, showmanship, and spectacle. However, this movie stars funny people Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, so you know it’s gonna be anything but serious stuff.


*
Ah, Iceland! Home of blondes, exquisite countrysides, and a little fishing village that has a local musical group called Fire Saga. They are Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and his BFF, Sigrit Ericksdóttir (McAdams) who, truth be told, aren’t that good. Lars is narcissistic, obsessive, and believes their music is fantastic. They even dress-up like Norse gods (an MCU Thor call-back) for their music video. Sigrit is beautiful, funny, and without Lars’ interference, she can belt out a song with bravado. One day their big break comes as the Icelandic city council allows them to compete for the Eurovision Song Contest, even though they already have their ace-in-the-hole, brilliant singer Katiana (Demi Lovato).

But a series of strange events have them advancing to the main event and that’s where the arguments, break-ups, finger-pointing, and back-stabbing begin. Lars and Sigrit meet Russia’s #1 singer, Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) who’s destined to win the contest and break-up Fire Saga when he sets his eyes on Sigrit. Likewise, the Greek singer Mita (Melissanthi Mahut) is putting the moves on Lars as well. Lars and Sigrit manage to advance to the semi-finals singing their signature song, “Double Trouble”, after a disastrous first attempt, setting the stage for their typical break-up that will lead to their third-act reconciliation in the end. But, what an ending it is! For a silly comedy that goes off the rails at times, their musical finale is a heart-breaking number that rivals Lady Gaga’s song in A Star Is Born.

Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele (SNL, Funny or Die, The Spoils of Babylon) have over-written a very funny movie that goes on a little too long. At just over two hours, it starts to overstay its welcome with too many side-stories and scenes that play out much too long. A bit like This Is Spinal Tap meets Popstar: Never Stop Never Stoppin’ with A Star Is Born and Blades of Glory thrown in, this comedy hurls jokes, gags, and one-liners that are hit ‘n’ miss. Some land on solid ground while others are just groaners. But you can’t deny this a Will Ferrell movie as he ad-libs and mugs his way along with McAdams who is very much his comedic equal, giving a stand-alone performance that almost steals the show.

There are lots of LOL moments, like singer Demi Lovato parodying herself as both a flashy singer and a spectral being, a running gag about elves, how the townspeople only want to hear Fire Saga sing “Ya Ya Ding Dong”, and a wicked cool musical break in the middle of the movie that rivals the ones in The Showman orMoulin Rouge. You can thank director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, Shanghai Knights)for his expert use of the camera and quick edits, knowing how to capture the humor from Ferrell and McAdams.

Other great characters include Pierce Brosnan as Lars’ acerbic dad who can’t stand his son, British talk-show host Graham Norton as the Eurovision announcer, and real-life contestants of the Eurovision Song Contest! Pretty cool. This was another coronavirus casualty movie as it was supposed to be in the theaters months ago, but ended up on Netflix streaming instead.

Blades of Glory (2007)


*
There’s no denying it, Will Ferrell is one funny guy. Match him up with the right partner (John C. Reilly, Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg) and you can get some comedy gold. Get him matched up with someone else and, well, it’s not all that great. Case in point, John Heder.

It’s the 2002 World Winter Sports Games and two skilled skaters are arch-rivals against each other: raunchy sex addict Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and effeminate and fussy Jimmy MacElroy (Heder). When they tie for the gold medal and have a heated argument, it quickly escalates to the point where a mascot gets set on fire. As a result, the National Figure Skating Association strips both men of their medals and bans them from men’s singles competition for life. Years later we learn that Jimmy’s billionaire dad disowned him and left him dead broke, forcing him to work at a sporting goods store, while drunken Chazz plays an Evil Wizard in a kids skating play.

But! A loophole in the ban will allow Jimmy to compete in PAIR skating IF he can find a suitable partner. Gee, I wonder WHO he’s gonna get!? Jimmy contacts his old coach, Robert (Craig T. Nelson), and gets Chazz (big surprise, right?), as the first-ever same-sex pairs team. Robert informs them that to win, they’ll need to not only get along but perform the deadly “Iron Lotus” routine, an extremely dangerous skating maneuver that could decapitate someone! Naturally, Chazz is a HUGE pain in the butt, while Jimmy just wants to compete again.

Meanwhile, there’s the brother and sister skating team of Stranz and Fairchild (Will Arnett & Amy Poehler), who are worried that their spot as the top team is threatened when Jimmy and Chazz perform well at a Winter Sports qualifier. Besides trying to sabotage their partnership with sexual dalliances, the nasty couple kidnaps both Chazz and Jimmy, but both escape. Arriving in time to compete, Chazz and Jimmy begin their tricky Iron Lotus routine, but Fairchild throws pearls onto the ice, causing Chazz to trip and break his ankle! Jimmy switches places and they perform it perfectly, winning the competition.

With FOUR screenwriters (John Altschuler, Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, and Dave Krinsky) and TWO directors (Josh Gordon & Will Speck), this very silly movie never really had a chance. The set-up was fine, to be sure, but the execution failed with way too many cooks (writers) stirring the pot. Then you had the dynamic of Ferrell and Heder that didn’t work at all.  Ferrell has to be able to bounce his manic ad-libbing and character persona off the right person(s), but Heder ain’t that guy. The direction isn’t very good either as neither Gordon nor Speck had any experience in movie directing, only TV series stuff.

Although the film was loaded with cameos of real ice skaters like Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, Dorothy Hamill, and more, it still couldn’t match the box office receipts of Ferrell’s other film juggernauts like The Other Guys, Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Rickey Bobby, or his Ron Burgundy films.

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