The scores are in — and Iceland’s Lars & Sigrit are through to the fictional final of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. But how does the Eurovision movie fare in a competition against itself? Is it an eruption of emotion and laughter, or does it simply make us want to sink into the lava?
Well members of the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of musical unprofessionals — have now watched the two-hour film and are ready to slice and splice its various themes and tropes. From the stuffing of one’s trousers to the requests for just a bit more “Ja Ja Ding Dong”, spoilers are just around the corner. So if you haven’t watched the movie, you may want to stop reading now.
We are obviously not The Academy. We’re a house of Eurovision fans, so we’ve approached the Netflix comedy on our own terms. For some of us, watching Will Ferrell’s movie is less about critically comparing it to Golden Globe winners and more about seeing something that captures the spirit of the contest we love. But naturally others among us can and do have a different bar. In any case, here are our quick takes from around the world.
Eurovision fans review Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
🇳🇱 Esma: I’ve been a sceptic about this film from the start. I expected it to be a train wreck – an American mockumentary about our beloved Eurovision. But I have to admit that I was wrong. I actually really enjoyed watching it. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga couldn’t have been released at a more favourable time. While I’m still in deep mourning about the cancellation of ESC 2020 – and I know the entire fandom is with me – there’s finally some light on the horizon, and it’s lined with volcanic ash from Iceland! The film was so easy to watch, the songs were catchy, and I absolutely LIVED for the cameos and the meme-worthy scenes. It was one big party – just like Eurovision! Were there some factual inaccuracies? Yes. But I condone that for the sake of the bigger picture.
🇬🇧 Deban: An over-stretched chick-flick with poor wardrobe choices, bland humour and sexless romance, The Story Of Fire Saga isn’t a respectful tribute, but rather, a piss-take parody! And therein lies the problem. As a committed Eurovision fan who enjoys the medium of film, the end-product here leaves me wanting. The movie is way too long, and much of it is padded with hyperbolised facial expressions and painfully unfunny jokes. The characterisation is infantile at best and the Eurovision staging reads as cheap. Lots of holes in the script play alongside some grave omissions — resulting in a bizarre series of alternative facts. Yes, I love the cameos, and surprisingly, the soundtrack slays. However, I can’t help but conclude that Eurovision fans deserve better.
🇺🇸 🇬🇧 William: I love it when people dip it low, but then immediately take things higher. And so it goes in the Eurovision movie, where penis jokes and a bare-chested Russian lothario mingle merrily alongside stories of familial rejection and unrequited love. Far from mocking Eurovision, David Dobkin’s heartfelt film celebrates the contest as the musical Olympics and the biggest moment in many artists’ lives. We see it as a great unifier, bringing Icelanders together in pubs, and real-life Eurovision stars together at an unforgettable party. But we also see it as a vehicle for some simple but important truths, perhaps best summed up by the song “Husavik”: Sometimes you have to travel pretty far to realise that what matters most is already with you. This movie is a silly, wacky love-letter to Eurovision — and one written with the warmest of intentions. I’m excited to read it again!
🇦🇺 🇦🇲 Antranig: The only thing I didn’t like about the movie were the elements which didn’t stay true to Eurovision, like the revealing of individual country votes in the semi-final. If you put those little tidbits to the side, the film was phenomenal. It was funny throughout and featured plenty of amazing songs. I only wish my girl Demi Lovato had a slightly larger role, especially as her song “In the Mirror” is a real gem. Additionally, Dan Stevens’ portrayal of the Russian contestant was a five-star performance, right to the end.
🇳🇱 Renske: I went in with no expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised how the Eurovision movie got it right. It wasn’t necessarily funny to me, since I’m Dutch and our culture has a different sense of humour, but it was quite joyful to watch nonetheless. I love the attention they brought to the details. The only reason why the international press gave it such a mixed review is because they didn’t understand the parody completely like we Eurovision fans do. Oh, and it was much better than Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
🇦🇺 🇭🇷 Antony: This film was such a pleasure to watch. It was so heart-warming and funny as it made its best effort to portray what Eurovision is about without being offensive to die-hard fans like us. I really liked the “Icelandic touches” within some of their jokes — Hákarl anyone? (That’s stinky cured shark). The songs, while occasionally ridiculous, were always musical — they mirrored the great range of songs typically seen at the contest. So much so that I couldn’t wait to listen to the soundtrack the next day. It’s a lovely burst of light during these dark pandemic days, and a film that I will repeat again and again.
🇻🇪 Pablo: I didn’t come into this expecting filmmakers to show off their detailed knowledge of the song contest or a sense of humour that particularly appeals to me, as Ferrell-style funny isn’t funny to me. And I got what I expected — and worse. There is a suspension of disbelief with fiction, to be sure. But as a Eurofan some things cannot be glossed over — most glaringly, what the precious heck was that semi-final result calculation and announcement? However, there were some good moments to be had: the music hits the spot between realistic and parody, the big “song-along” had good Interval Act energy, and Sigrit is a delight from beginning to end. Overall, the main word for me is “not” — not one for the books, not a game-changer, not the worst thing in the world, not a cause of great distress for the song contest or those who love it.
🇬🇧 🇵🇱 Tom: I was very worried about the film. Didn’t want to write about it and I didn’t really want to talk about it. A little bitterness also came in that I didn’t get an audition for it! I expected the worst, but on the whole it was surprisingly good. The songs are great and the film holds the contest in relatively high regard — though it does exaggerate elements and there are MANY inaccurate Eurovision references. Dan Stevens in particular is excellent and the film has brilliant Eurovision cameos and some “in jokes” which I appreciated. However, I would have preferred more music from the actual contest — the film was meant to celebrate Eurovision and there isn’t any real reason not to include some real ESC songs. Overall I’m pleased, but most of all relieved.
🇺🇸 Suzanne: I laughed. I cried. I felt a tug at my heart strings. I had a WTF moment or two. Netflix’s Eurovision movie offers an enjoyable two hours, though the duration could have been shortened while preserving the impact. The Sing-A-Long scene is my favourite part of the movie. It captures the true spirit of Eurovision: a CELEBRATION of music, friendship, love, happiness! My hope for the movie was that it would draw in new fans by sharing the heart of Eurovision. I do not believe this was achieved. While somewhat educational, the affinity for and the magnitude of Eurovision viewership did not come across in the movie, in part due to timing and the lack of Eurovision 2020 forced by the global pandemic. It was fun to see familiar faces from the Eurovision stage, appear on the big screen (at home). I enjoyed the (limited) character development, particularly the relationship between the Erickssong men, not to mention that Pierce Brosnan has always made my heart go pitter-patter. Definitely not a just replacement for the 2020 Grand Final in Rotterdam, but a fun distraction more generally during these strange times.
🇳🇿 Robyn: I love films centred around music and I love Eurovision, and Will Ferrell’s comedy films have made me laugh — so this film is a dream come true. Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’ Lars and Sigrit were cute, sympathetic and relatable lead characters who were the backbone of the story. The music was perfect, with classic Eurovision tropes from the past two decades, turned up to 11. In places I laughed out loud and the emotional finale of “Husavik” made my eyes leak. Yeah, it could have been a bit shorter (that subplot involving the K-pop remix of the song felt unnecessary) but it wasn’t uncomfortably long. And as a bonus, if the film can attract new fans to Eurovision, that is a good thing indeed.
🇸🇪 Tobias: I could write a paragraph, but I’m going to write an essay. Sorry ’bout it. I have been waiting for this movie…but what a disappointment! I adore their effort in making it come alive but it never catches the real atmosphere of Eurovision. Instead, they make a parody of the show, but not in a particularly funny way, and this mock Eurovision ends up looking rather low budget. I didn’t expect a documentary, but at least a dose of reality: I mean Johnny John John… singing hip hop and R&B for Sweden…in Eurovision…when has that ever happened? If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that Eurovision fans always complain that Sweden “always sends mainstream generic pop songs”. Johnny John John that is not. Also, at two hours: The film is too long!
Other issues include:
Voting. It’s a small detail, but it really annoys me — points should not be handed out during the semi-final.
The confusing scoreboard. There was no logic in it. The countries that received points were displayed twice on the same scoreboard. For example, in the voting process the Icelandic spokesperson announces 12 points to The Netherlands. When the next country gives their votes you can see on the right side of the scoreboard that The Netherlands has 0 points. But you can also see The Netherlands on the left side of the scoreboard with 12 points.
The medley: This is the biggest disappointment with the movie. You make a medley with iconic Eurovision stars including Loreen, Conchita Wurst, Netta, John Lundvik, Bilal, Elina Nechayeva, Anna Odobescu, Jamala, and Alexander Rybak…and make them sing a song from Cher?
There are, of course, some good things. What made this movie feel more realistic and more connected to Eurovision was seeing our very own wiwiblogger William shine with his energy and the sarcastic and hilarious commentator Graham Norton. They gave true Eurovision vibes! The “Husavik” song is also amazing, and shows off the incredible voice of our Swedish songbird Molly Sandén! If this were competing in the real Eurovision it would have my vote.
I was hoping that the movie would be an eye-opener to all those people (especially Americans) who don’t know anything about Eurovision. I wanted them to be blown away and see how amazing, fun, crazy, weird and interesting this show really is. But if I were in their shoes after watching this, I wouldn’t be interested in watching the real Eurovision at all.
We have removed the highest and lowest scores prior to calculating the average. This is to remove outliers and potential bias. We have removed a low of 3 and a high of 9.
The Wiwi Jury Verdict: 7.39 / 10
What’s your score out of 10 for the movie? Did it exceed your expectations? What aspects of the film worked for you and what would you change if there were a sequel? Let us know in the comments box down below!