MRisnes’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was fucking delightful. The kind of comedy I can get behind 💯. Great production values, stunning locations, high concept with a bonkers, larger than life hook. So, a classic Will Ferrell underdog comedy. But this does an interesting, intelligent thing for a Gary Sanchez production. It dials back the eye rolling absurdity of the characters due to the heightened milieu of the setting and plot. And it works like gangbusters to ground the narrative and generate real empathy and involvement.
All the mechanics and individual pieces of the plot are stock. A lot of warmed over stuff about pleasing daddy and following your dreams and seeing the great thing you have right in front of you. Nothing you haven’t seen a million times before. But the epic setting and big budget energy of the whole affair is just intoxicating. The sweeping vistas and gorgeously lit high contrast 4K photography sucked me in right from the start and kept me aesthetically engaged through to the end.
But it’s the surprisingly mature choice by Ferrell to not play his role as a complete buffoon that really saves this from the pitfalls of his recently dwindling efforts. He’s just too old (oof those 4K closeups) to be playing hollering incompetents and willfully destructive simpletons the way he used to. His character here isn’t an outright idiot or anything, just a little different. He’s actually a good songwriter and a competent musician, keeping a pay-the-bills cover band gig going in a marvelously lived in local bar.
But this is Rachel McAdams film all the way. She’s genuinely pretty tremendous here, and I’ve never really thought much of her in anything before. She exudes an effervescently, innately beautiful spirit and somehow, impossibly sells her connection to Ferrell. I genuinely became invested in the choices she would make and how they would impact her career, even when deep down, I knew this thing was on rails, predictably chugging along to its preordained destination.
I could care less about Eurovision or this kind of music. I’ve never really known anything about it honestly other than it gave the world Lordi, so take from that what you will. I think my intensely Norwegian heritage (my last name derives from the town in Norway my great-grandfather emigrated from in the early 1900’s) and elemental connection to the region inspired a lot of longing in me. Seeing all those hirsute men with blue eyes amidst a backdrop of frigid waters and mountainous terrain made me feel a strong desire to be there. It’s not often I watch a movie and think, “that’s where I belong”. So that was an interesting set of feelings to be experiencing during a silly Will Ferrell comedy.
I also want to shout out Pierce Brosnan for having the best hair and beard game in town. How does that guy get exponentially more handsome the older he gets? Unreal. And Dan Stevens is incredibly fun in this film. Again, a little judicial restraint goes a long way toward making his character more palatable to endure and credibly beneficial to the story.
The ending gets a little long in the tooth and painfully perfunctory. If this film commits any sin, it’s outstaying its welcome, but being a Netflix film, it’s contractually required to be overlong and indulgent. That’s just the law. But otherwise I sort of loved this and could actually see myself watching it again in the future.