At this point, a Will Ferrell comedy is a mad-lib concoction of words filling in the predictable empty spaces of a plot.
The spots where the words can be inserted include a weird accent for his character, as well as an odd profession and zany competition that will allow him to achieve his dream. You also can include the prestige actor who will play his doubting father, a comedian who will be his supportive sidekick and wild celebrity cameos that will pop up.
In “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” it goes that Ferrell’s character, Lars Erickssong, is a starry-eyed Icelandic pop artist who longs to participate in Europe’s titular singing competition. His father, Erick (Pierce Brosnan) doubts his abilities, while his life-long singing partner, Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams), believes they can make it and fall in love.
After a disastrous entry performance into the competition, the duo of Lars and Sigrit, known as Fire Saga, figure their chances are done. As they prepare to pack up, a cruise containing all of the winning Icelandic singers explodes, making Fire Saga the default entrant for Iceland into the global competition.
At the competition, they will have to face some of the best artists in the world, as well as people who want to separate them and sweep them off their feet, like the flamboyant Russian Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens). Can they make it and find love? Well, if you’ve seen a Will Ferrell movie, — and any will do — you know the answer.
Directed by David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers” and a number of terrible comedies), this is, for at least 90 minutes of its two-hour running time, an oddly charming comfort-food watch. Ferrell is doing nothing new, as he does blonde extensions and an Icelandic accent he barely commits to keeping, but he’s a likable presence. McAdams, on the other hand, is shining, as she showcases her comedic talents, channeling a Bjork imitation through a bubbly, naive character similar to one she played in the funnier “Game Night.”
As a duo, the two have wonderful chemistry, but it’s more of a brother-sister kind than a romantic feeling. The movie has a recurring gag of whether or not they’re siblings that runs concurrent with Sigrit pining for Lars, making it both confusing and weird. I know we’re supposed to be rooting for them as underdogs in the competition, but why throw in that we might also be cheering on an incestuous romance? We’re never really given a reason.
It’s not that the movie doesn’t have time to explain it, as it pads out its length with a number of flashy, swirling performances from singers like Demi Lovato, as well as real life winners of the “Eurovision” competition, along with flat comedic gags, like Sigrit’s obsession with elves.
“Eurovision” has all the potential to be a hilarious modern musical send-up, like Ferrell alumnus John C. Reilly’s “Walk Hard.” The direction is capable and the ensemble is charismatic and fun. But outside of McAdams and Stevens’ memorably goofy performances, there’s not a song or gag that sticks around after the movie is over.
Much like a singing competition after the winner is crowned, you’ll likely forget about this and move on to the next big thing. But it was kind of fun while it lasted.
“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” streams on Netflix beginning June 26.