When I first heard that they were making a comedy about the Eurovision Song Contest, and that it was starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, I was immediately keen to see it. If done right, it could be a mix of wonderful camp and many laughs. Well, the comedy here may be a bit gentler than I expected, but it's essentially done right.
Ferrell and McAdams play Lars and Sigrit, a musical duo who are given an unbelievable opportunity to represent their home country of Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest. The only thing working against them is the fact that they're not very good. They have been put in this position thanks to an unbelievable tragedy, and Iceland prepares to look on in embarrassment as they most likely come in behind every other participating country. That doesn't necessarily dissuade Lars and Sigrit though, although they certainly have some idea of the odds stacked against them.
Much like a previous Ferrell vehicle, Blades Of Glory, this is a comedy that takes something very camp, and enjoyed by many, and creates the humour around that, and around the perception of it. While we have a number of fun characters (Dan Stevens almost walks away with the entire movie) and some mishaps for our leads (the biggest one taking place about two thirds of the way in, and I cannot promise that a little bit of wee didn't escape as I laughed so hard), the actual idea of Eurovision is not itself mocked. Indeed, it's all the main characters have been dreaming of for their whole lives, but perhaps not with the fraction of talent required to achieve that dream. Perhaps.
The leads are both absolutely perfect. Ferrell once again works in his favoured arena, someone with a hilarious lack of self-awareness and a readiness to storm off in a big huff, and McAdams is completely earnest from start to finish, and the one who will see everything through even as she loses faith in their ability to pull off some kind of miracle. To be fair, both characters benefit from being played with that earnestness, but it's Ferrell who is more likely to quit when the going gets tough, despite being the one who maintained such strong willpower to get to this stage. I just mentioned Stevens above, and after seeing his turn here as Russian singer Alexander Lemtov I want to see him try some more comedy work. The guy is just superb here, with the film making great use of his uber-handsomeness and playing up every moment that he can make seem sexy (which is pretty much every moment he breathes, dammit). Pierce Brosnan is Ferrell's father, and acts disappointed in his son for most of the movie, Melissanthi Mahut is another Eurovision star, Natasia Demetriou isn't onscreen for long enough, and Graham Norton, so synonymous with the Eurovision Song Contest nowadays, does a great job of playing Graham Norton.
Ferrell has also taken on the writing duties here, with Andrew Steele. Considering the latter also worked on The Spoils Of Babylon, among other projects, the two seem a perfect pair to get the tone just right here, embracing the silliness of things while keeping a surprisingly sweet heart beating beneath it all. Director David Dobkin doesn't deliver any surprises, and it's admirable that nobody tries to cram in more gags as the characters are given time and space to simply progress through their main journey. It's also admirable that, overall, this isn't aiming to make the kind of puerile gags that have featured in other Ferrell movies. Not that I always dislike that humour, but it's an excellent choice to play things out here in a sweeter, softer, way.
You're unlikely to enjoy this if you already dislike Ferrell. He does what he does, for better or worse. But if you're on the fence about it, or if you're a big fan of Eurovision and missing your fix, then I say give it a go. You might enjoy it as much as I did.