Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga ★★★½

Amiable enough comedy with a deliriously terrific performance from Dan Stevens and a lot of big, hilariously straight-faced parodic Eurovision-style music numbers, plus one big Baz Luhrmann-style swirly hard-charging musical mashup and cameo-fest.

But here's where I part company with the comedy world: I don't think Will Ferrell adds a damn thing to this movie, at least onscreen. As a producer and screenwriter, he obviously had a lot to contribute. But bear with me. What if he hadn't centered this movie so much on his own damn self? Instead of being yet another dorky love story about an arrested-development manchild with a beautiful woman faithfully swooning over his lame, selfish, obsessive, unkind, generally-lacking-in-romantic-qualities middle-aged ass for no clear reason, it could have so easily been about Rachel McAdams' character finding her voice and figuring out whether Dan Stevens actually represents anything she wants out of life, and it could have focused more on the better actors and performers and less on Ferrell doing the same schtick he always does, but with a different accent. This is a perfectly cromulent comedy, but at its best, it's sublimely over-the-top ridiculous and fun, and it's really notable how all of those best parts come when Ferrell's character has sulked or snitted himself out of the action for a while.

My co-podcasters on the Next Picture Show podcast shouted me down hard on this one, but I'm convinced I'm onto something. Garfield Without Garfield is a surreal and disturbing comic instead of mass-produced rubberstamp humor. Eurovision without Farrell would have all of the ridiculously straight-faced sincerity and wouldn't be the same underdog story we've already seen a million times.