Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
This might sound crazy, but I was blown away by how hilarious and heartfelt this silly movie was about a quirky Icelandic band getting to live their dream of competing in an international pop contest.
"Okay, so not as bad as we expected."
(Quip of the review: Well, this was way more satisfying than watching the singer dominated finale of America's Got Talent this year.)
The silly, over the top humor of Will Ferrell can be hit or miss with me, and this is my favorite movie I have seen him in since 'Blades of Glory'. Prior to watching this, I had never even heard of the Eurovision Song Contest before, and I have absolutely no interest regarding the context of that event compared to this movie.
In the story, Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams play Lars and Sigrit who have loved singing together ever since seeing Abba win Eurovision when they were kids. We are told they are not very good, but that mostly comes down to some of the disastrous shenanigans that happen to Lars on stage, because that is the bread and butter of Ferrell's man child humor. But despite their awful audition, Iceland's Eurovision board has no other choice but to let them go to the contest after all the other contestants are killed during an explosion on a party cruise.
"Hey, Lars! Get back in there right now and play Ja Ja Ding Dong!"
- While I have never been to Iceland, I do have a soft spot for Scandinavia due to my heritage and traveling through those countries during my study abroad
- I liked how we are shown Fire Saga is a bit delusional when it appears like they are dressed like flashy Vikings in a music video, when they are really just imagining all of this while playing and draining a lot of power at his Dad's house
- I am not sure if there is any elves mythology in Iceland, but that part reminded me of the trolls mythology that they do have in Norway
- There were plenty of cliche story elements throughout from Pierce Brosnan being his Dad who is ashamed of him, Lars being clueless that Sigrit loves him, and them having creative differences and tension in their relationship once they get to Eurovision. But for some reason, I was just in the groove of this movie and none of that really bothered me
- The house party they go to with that song game reminded me of similar moments from those first two good Pitch Perfect movies
- The Russian contestant played by Dan Stevens made for a decent villain, but I did not care for his Lion song
- Watching the actual contest was a blast, with the variety of flashy and sexy pop acts
- Then it comes down to Iceland singing and they do really good with their ridiculous hamster wheel prop. It is so obvious that it is going to go tragically wrong at any moment, and when it finally did it caused me to burst out laughing so hard that I started tearing up
- Somehow the charm of them coming together and finishing strong gets them enough votes to move onto the finals, but Lars has no idea since he storms off in embarrassment
- This plot device helps the story wrap up some loose ends before he races back to the contest and arrives just on time to perform including:
1. He goes and makes peace with his father on a fishing boat
2. The Iceland official that sabotaged the Iceland Eurovision contestants because winning the contest would bankrupt the country gets murdered by elves. It was then funny to see Demi Lovato's ghost show back up to warn Lars about the danger, and he just tells her to go away since the elves already took care of it while she was not paying attention
3. Ferrell jamming in a bunch of Americans are dumb jokes
- Then Lars gets on stage and lets Sigrit sing this gorgeous song that had me tearing up again and totally wrecked me
"The perfect song isn't the winning song, but a song that comes from the heart."
Thinking back on this one I can clearly tell how ridiculous and contrived it sounds, but at the same time I will never forget how much of an emotional blast it was to watch for the first time.
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... Skål!