Downhill (2020)

I saw a trailer for this somewhere, can’t remember where, and it should have been a warning to me that I couldn’t remember anything from the trailer besides the movie exists. I couldn’t even remember that Will Ferrell was in it. I knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus was in it, so I considered that a good thing as I genuinely love her performances and am always happy to see her in things. It was directed by Jim Rash, who played the Dean in Community, who co-wrote it alongside Jesse Armstrong, famous for Peep Show, Veep, The Thick Of It, Four Lions, and In The Loop, all of which are wonderfully scripted. So while hopes weren’t high, I did hold out hope that this would be a sleeper hit.

It’s not, it’s just asleep. It’s incredibly lazy, some of the jokes are basically just “Europeans are weird” (bit weird that’s the second Will Ferrell film of 2020 that can be said about). It’s a shame as everybody involved is incredibly talented, but none of them show it in this. If I had to guess I’d say it’s a clash of comedic styles. Will Ferrell normally does quite loud and physical comedy which is slightly obvious and manic, whereas Julia Louis-Dreyfus goes for slightly more dialogue-focused and subdued stuff (her most extreme physical stuff probably being a few Elaine moments in Seinfeld). And Armstrong’s strength is usually dialogue and story, the film is a remake so he doesn’t have control of the story, and Will Ferrell is more physical than dialogue based. That creates a very weird mesh of conflicting styles that never seems to settle on what it wants the film to be.

It’s hard to explain why, but this film felt incredibly small, like a TV movie, albeit with a big name cast. Watching it, you can almost sense the advert breaks. It’s not just that, it’s the tone too. Nothing hits home. The emotional beats don’t work, the characters feel incredibly ill defined, I think one of the kids is written to be incredibly nervous, but it’s not showcased effectively enough for it to be something that character can overcome for narrative purposes. A lot of the side characters are pointless too, appearing just to drive the plot forward for a small moment, then disappearing.

It’s a shame as by all logic this should be a fantastic film, as it is, I can’t recommend it, even as a curiosity.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

So we’ve reached the point where I’m catching up on films I’ve missed so far this year. First off is this one, a film not released in cinemas but was on netflix. It was originally supposed to be released alongside Eurovision, which was cancelled due to COVID 19.

Eurovision is insane and weird, so this is perfect fodder for a film, and should allow Will Ferrell to be at his madcap best. It’s a shame then, just how plain this film is. Will Ferrell’s character is essentially “Will Ferrell with an accent”, and at this point that type of character is just becoming grating.  The film itself is incredibly plain, very American. It also has a central premise that doesn’t hold up if you do any research into it.

It’s about two Icelandic singers who enter Eurovision (essentially a Euro-wide singing contest which is, well it’s kind of weird) hoping to win. But (unknown to them), one of the people on the Icelandic Eurovision committee has been killing Icelandic singers because if a country wins then they have to host the next years contest, and the country can’t afford it, so if the singers die then they won’t win. The central premise is flawed, as if a country can’t afford to host, it can defer to another country, and that has happened multiple times. So the premise of the film doesn’t work. It doesn’t even work in the universe the film creates. A character mentions in passing that “Everybody hates UK so they never win”, but in this film, the song contest is being hosted by the UK. So they obviously won the year before. So even if in this film universe of “no, if you win, you HAVE to host” it completely lacks consistency.

The opening song has to be commended though, it’s the kind of weirdness that you associate with Eurovision and is kid of perfect, the rest of the film? Not so much. It’s an incredibly generic “a man and woman work together and one doesn’t realise the other is in love with them, complete with comedic misunderstanding” film. First off, why is it a romance film when it should be like a sports story? Also I consider it a mistake to have so much Will Ferrell, this is the perfect setting for an ensemble movie. You have different comedians be different performers, focus mainly on one night of the contest, and just let them all go nuts.

It’s also FAR too American. There’s a moment where the cast randomly burst into a song medley. This would have been a good opportunity to do like a mini-showcase of Eurovision hits, and whilst it does include ABBA and a Celine Dion song which was an entry in 1988, it also includes Madonna, Cher, and Black Eyed Peas. So that scene doesn’t give you an insight into the contest, and instead is just an advert for American music. It would be like if a film about the American film industry had a montage that consisted mainly of anime and Bollywood films.

One final thing: why the f*ck was this 2 hours long?