I first learned about Eurovision two years ago while working in England for the summer. Not many people are familiar with Eurovision on this side of the Atlantic, and so for those who don’t know, the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual, international music competition where artists from various countries in Europe (and for some reason Australia) participate to win Best Song. What’s unique about Eurovision is that the songs and performances are bonkers. And people are obsessed with it! When I was there, people would have Eurovision parties, dress up in national colours, and even take the day off work. I even heard that party planners would stock beer from various countries to drink along with performances. Eurovision is like a musical Olympics on acid. There’s also probably the same amount of spandex.
I didn’t know this before today, but The Great Celine Dion became famous and started her career when she won Eurovision in 1988, representing Switzerland with “Ne partez pas sans moi.” That’s the power of Eurovision.
Yesterday, Deadline announced that Pierce Brosnan would star in Eurovision, a Netflix comedy with Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, directed by David Dobkin, and written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele. The premise of the movie is that Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) are struggling Icelandic musicians who get their big break when they perform at Eurovision. Brosnan will play Will Ferrell’s dad who is also “the most handsome man in Iceland.” Excellent choice.
But despite the star-studded cast, I’m a little concerned about this project. Will Ferrell is a fan of Eurovision and has been since his Swedish wife introduced him to it a few years ago. Will Ferrell is also a comedy genius, at least to me. His over-the-top humour and ridiculous caricatures always have me in stitches. He has created iconic characters (like Ron Burgundy and Brennan Huff) that have become part of the culture.
Eurovision, however, is also over-the-top and campy. It’s extra af and that’s largely its appeal. Just look at the 2019 competition when an Icelandic group called Hatari performed in Tel Aviv.
The costumes. The theatricality. Plus, it’s not just spectacle with these guys either. This is probably the most absurd interview that you’ll ever watch in your entire life:
How do you write something funnier than that? I genuinely can’t think of anything better than, “We’re still anti-capitalist, but we’re grateful to our sponsors.”
My point is, Eurovision is already excessive and absurd, so what new thing can someone bring to it that Eurovision hasn’t already achieved all by itself without being parodied? Beyond that, even if the movie is really funny (it probably will be), who’s it going to be funny to? North Americans? Yes. Europeans? Maybe not so much. The hate has already started showing up in the comments on Netflix UK’s tweet:
I'm a Eurovision fan and even I don't want to see this.— Alys 🇪🇺🏳️🌈🏳️⚧ (@alpha_alys) August 8, 2019
Why are the central characters not played by Icelandic actors?— Pete (@Kibbled) August 8, 2019
Fully expect this American production to be tone deaf— Dehvid (@dav_bi) August 8, 2019
People make good points. American comedies about Europe are not known for their subtlety or cultural grace. Like EuroTrip. Granted, that came out 15 years ago, but what people don’t want now is a movie with borderline offensive Icelandic accents that parody an entire country (and perhaps an entire continent) for the sake of a few laughs. I’m not saying that’s what it will be, but there’s potential for it to go in that direction. Plus, why does a movie focused on an Icelandic duo star an American, Canadian, and Irishman? Checking IMDB, there do seem to be about four Icelandic actors who will appear in the film, but it’s unclear how large their parts will be. They’re definitely not leads. Is the crew Icelandic? The movie will be shot in the UK and Ireland!
I understand that there are always logistics, funding, and other considerations to be made when dealing with casting and shooting locations, but the fact that there aren’t many authentic voices on this production suggests that it might lean towards a stereotyped, Americanized version of a European cultural event. Will that kind of comedy still fly in 2019/20?