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Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather meet in Edinburgh to overthink Will Ferrell’s Eurovision mock-u-homage, Eurovision Song Contest: The Ballad of Fire Saga. We are devotees of Eurovision and very sorry that the pandemic has forced its cancellation, and this movie, whatever its drawbacks, does a number of things that kiiiiinda fill the gap. For now.
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- “The (Fake) Songs of Summer : A compendium of the infectious tunes in Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest” (Vulture)
- “Cher’s ‘Believe’ Now Faintly Audible Everywhere In America” (The Onion)
Also, please enjoy this video in which the Eurovision Song Contest parodies itself better than this movie does:
I’m not a Eurovision person OR a Will Ferrell person, but I’d like to float a theory that ties into the farce/satire idea: Ferrell is this (well, more the previous) generation’s Joe E. Brown. They have a similar goofy, friendly demeanor, put out a LOT of movies that most people don’t consider particularly memorable, and even when dealing with a serious story, tend to “punch it up” until it’s low-brow “how long can we keep this joke going” comedy.
Britain as a proxy of things in American pop culture is interesting, though. Depending on where you are, Britishness might signify Britain itself, Europe in general, any ancient culture, or alien society. Syfy’s Krypton is a good recent example of the last, where Superman’s grandparents and their friends all have English accents…because. Oh, and the accent also sometimes signifies homosexuality; we can’t forget the generations of effeminate villains who just happen to have English accents.
Oh, and despite my disinterest in Eurovision, a big thumbs down on World War III. Y’know, in case anybody was taking a poll…
As much as I love kitschy Eurotrash music, I was a little hesitant to watch this movie even though the marginal cost to me is zero since I already get Netflix. And the biggest roadblock is Will Ferrell. Every one of his performances is over the top and hammy. And his movies all follow a formula which is “Will Farrell is a [ridiculously obscure profession] and hilarity ensues.”
And the values for this wildcard include:
Race Car Driver
Local Newscaster (twice)
and now Cheesy Musician.
A little Will Ferrell goes a long way and even when he was on Saturday Night Live, way too many of his skits went on longer than the maximum acceptable dose.
However, having seen over the long weekend Da 5 Bloods and Hamilton (twice), I succumb (succame, succummed?) to temptation and went ahead and watched it. I powered through the endless Farrellness of it by focusing on the interesting acting choices Regina George was making. The accent. The naiveté. The low-key sexuality. Whatever she was doing, it was working.
But then I realized that this was mandatory watching for the Monday Overthinking episode. Never was there a more obvious topic short of a Fast and Furious/Terminator crossover movie. I spent a day just wondering how more hipster-than-thou it would be. It just screamed for the ‘we mocked Eurovision back when they were on an indie label’ treatment. And you guys cam through with flying colors. The disdain was all I expected and more.
To be fair all the faint praise of this movie was well-deserved. It was a complete trainwreck. And while the Dodgeball and Ricky Bobby references were apt, the movie this was really aping was Pitch Perfect, with Will Farrell’s much too old for the role manchild substituting for the easy charm of Anna Kendrick.
Just look at the formula. Take an obscure musical form with a small but devoted following, throw in a series of excruciatingly embarrassing mishaps on the way to the final round, and round it off with a heartwarming twist that wins over the audience. I just can’t wait for Will Ferrell to take on a Bring It On remake (reuniting him with Cheri Oteri) or for him to discover competitive madrigal singing.
If you’re on Netflix, want to see a musical comedy, and have some level of appreciation for Will Ferrell-esque silliness, you’ll be much better off if you watch Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It really commits to its jokes, has a killer original soundtrack, and is a full 30 minutes shorter than the Eurovision movie.
And can we talk about that run time for a second? What the heck was going in on in that editing room where they thought, “OK, this is good, we trimmed out all of the filler. 2 hours. Lock picture!”
I have nothing to add except for my full endorsement of this comment.
There was a really bad improv feel where lots of the bits went on just a little too long as if the actors were inventing the dialog on camera and they never did a tighter second take.
I agree with the criticisms of its pacing and overall length, however, I ultimately enjoyed the movie (grading on the “second quarter of coronavirus lockdown” curve) and I think it’s because, for all of its faults, it feels like a genuine tribute to Eurovision. Ferrell is a known fan of the contest and that joy comes out in the end product.
There are definitely some problematic national caricatures (and accents), but when it comes to the contest itself, it’s hard to even call this a parody. Most of the funny elements of the contest are just the rules and norms of the ESC itself, accurately stated. When the source material already revels in the absurd and grandiose, there’s no need to make it moreso. (Indeed, there was plenty more real material available to draw from.) I see ESC:BFS as an American’s heartfelt, if imperfect, love letter to the contest and I’m okay with that.