I give this fantastic and surprising comedy full “douze points” “kaksitoista pistettä” ”tolv påäng”!
The feel good Netflix movie pokes fun in a loving manner at the bizarre extravagance known as Eurovision Song Contest. The real life annual TV contest of European Broadcasting Union, that includes also countries that are not technically in Europe, gave the world Abba’s iconic Waterloo, the feat every artist dreams of when they enter an original song to their country’s own competition to get to represent their country.
Homage is also paid to the fate of Finland and other countries that typically rake “un point” from their fellow European countries and the incredible true story of Finland winning for the first time (and despite Saara Aalto’s Monster effort probably for the last time) against all odds with Lordi, the latex monster hard rock band. Spoiler alert: this movie keeps up with the authenticity; neighbouring countries often vote for each other and over the years winning has been a bit of a problem financially for some of the countries and politically for others.
The story in this cookie-sweet comedy, that has a true love affair with Euroviisut, the type of songs Eurovision brings to life that are genuine or genuinely funny, is so well written that it justifies a reckless car race along Edinburgh’s cobbled streets, breathtaking landscape scenes from Iceland we have not seen since the mother of dragons took us there and a song-a-long with real Eurovision winners that rivals even Bollywood’s sing and dance numbers.
The accented English is a character on its own right, and Will Ferrel almost manages to keep it up through the ups and downs of his Icelandic character Lars. The North American actor, and even more so the mainstream audience south of the Canadian border, would not be able to get through a movie spoken mostly in foreign language so one can understand that there was no other choice than to use English seasoned with a pinch of Icelandic. The irony is not lost on Will Ferrel, the co-writer, who does go a bit overboard hammering both the Americans and American exceptionalism and with another particular joke that is beaten to death (if you want spoilers take a look at the character names).
Canadian Rachel McAdams as the elf-loving childhood friend of Lars from their Icelandic hometown is charming and pulls the weight in the surprisingly fresh love story as well as the singing until the end reveals she must have had help from someone else who has lent Sigrit her voice. A quick internet search reveals a Swedish Eurovision alumni Molly Sandén was the helping voice complementing Rachel’s until replacing it. The cameos, like the Irishman Graham Norton, are splendid fun and what a spot on casting to dress up Dan Stevens, an Englishman known by many as the dreamy Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey, as the refreshing take on the Russian arch-villain.
What makes this not only a great movie but elevates it to a level that I just had to write this review is how it deals with current state of affairs. The apparent and subtle references to the human rights and voting issues are sublime. No movie about Eurovision Song Contest would be complete without a shoutout to its hardcore fans LGBTQ community that is lovingly pampered with Cher’s Believe and more importantly taking precious screen time to raise awareness of the statistics in certain countries.
As the old saying goes truth is stranger than fiction and I’m sure everyone, who has witnessed events unfold this year known in the West as 2020 and the year of the rat in the East, agrees that it most certainly has been exceptionally outlandish. Elections have been postponed citing concerns of spreading corona virus and upcoming elections contested in advance by the current occupants. Vote while you can and make sure every vote counts even if your own favourite song you’d like to hear in 2021 is not on the ballot.