Written by: Will Ferrell & Andrew Steele
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Melissanthi Mahut, Mikael Persbrandt
Unfettered passion can help accomplish the unachievable because of the unmatched effort one can employ when the lofty goal becomes something filled with love. For some, it may be to reach the apex of their profession and for others, it centers on winning a song contest. With a funny enough premise, Eurovision Song Contest takes an existing competition but puts in some seriously dumb characters in a completely bloated story.
With a passion to win it all, middle-aged Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) has dedicated his entire life to winning Eurovision and proving his father (Pierce Brosnan) wrong. On this journey, he performs alongside his longtime friend Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) as they try to become the representatives of Iceland in this continental competition.
Taking an over the top contest and turning the participation into a comedy film has the inklings of a good idea, which Eurovision Song Contest initially displays. It takes these absurdist characters and puts them in an ascension-to-glory story. While the film certainly displays moments of greatness through the musical performances, everything else in the narrative feels far too overlong, pointless, and simply aggravating to a point. It begins with a dream of young Lars wanting to perform and lacking the emotional support of his father, which has been seen before, and then transitions to this young boy now a middle-aged man still trying to achieve the same goal. At this point, it’s just sad he has not done much else in life, but that level of passion for Eurovision did not allow him to try anything else.
The first inklings of this story beginning to fall apart is the introduction of Sigrit as an adult and still holding the same affection for Lars as when she was a child. She pines for him even if Lars cannot get past his dream to win the song contest. It becomes a bit ridiculous when you have someone like Rachel McAdams desperately trying to get the attention of Will Ferrell, but the comedy has to come from somewhere. Eurovision Song Contest fails to really establish why Sigrit finds him attractive in any way other than the script demands it. Lars has no job, no real career direction other than trying to enter a song contest, and has essentially become the laughing stock of the town. Sure, she plays alongside him and shares a similar goal but she also works as a teacher and has some sort of direction in life. It just turns into a romance where the relationship makes absolutely no sense, especially with the number of times Sigrit throws herself at him.
As these two try to reach the competition, they put on some terrible performances but they funnily enough keep finding themselves in the position to continue. They become Iceland’s hope to progress through pure luck. The whole circumstance seems pretty silly because the pair are actually good musicians with them having great voices and strong songs, but they never seem to be able to put it all together at the right time. It comes down to the theatrics of the performance failing them rather than the actual music itself, which evidently proves to be important in the grand scheme of a televised competition.
These performances prove to be the true highlight of this feature, as individuals from all over Europe come together to put together musical numbers. In a way, the competition serves as a way to celebrate all of the countries within the union. As it gets to the final competition, Lars and Sigrit have chosen the song they will perform and it gets played on multiple occasions with each new instance having some level of improvement because they get more comfortable onstage. It still does not help that something will evidently go wrong. Within these performances, the emotions of the characters come through not through the words they speak but the way they feel the music and express themselves to the world. Showmanship at its finest, but the film also has nearly two hours of complete nonsense in-between.
The back and forth between Lars and Sigrit just gets tiring because the former continually fails to provide any reasons why the latter should have any interest in him. He does not really let her express herself as a musician if it does not benefit him and he’s not very charming, which once again raises the question as to why the audience should be rooting for them to come together. For a comedy film, many of the scenes just do not land with desperate attempts to inject humor that lands like a fly on a windshield. Rachel McAdams definitely does a fine enough job, but Dan Stevens as the Russian, Alexander Lemtov has the most fun in the film and really brings the best comedic attempts the film had to offer.
Eurovision Song Contest can best be viewed by skipping through all of the unnecessary plot and just watching the musical performances, which ultimately remains the draw of the feature. Everything else in the bloated story has no real resonance, presents nothing not seen before, and just drags down the rest of the narrative along with it. Disappointing as a whole even with the bright spots within.