Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch during the pandemic including the “O Canada Collection” on Disney+ and two comedies, Jon Stewart’s satire “Irresistible” starring Steve Carell, and Netflix Will Ferrell movie,”Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Leena Latafat have a look at the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including Jon Stewart’s satire “Irresistible” starring Steve Carell, the Netflix comedy with the longest title of the week,”Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” the dreary “Exit Plan” and the crime drama “Hammer.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Todd Van Der Heyden to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the political satire “Irresistible” starring Steve Carell, the Netflix comedy with the longest title of the week,”Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” and the dreary “Exit Plan.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the political satire “Irresistible” starring Steve Carell, the Netflix comedy with the longest title of the week,”Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” the dreary “Exit Plan” and the father-and-son crime drama “Hammer.”
Will Ferrell is a wonderfully weird and committed actor. Like a dog with a bone when he latches onto a part he doesn’t let go, come hell or high water. When it works, it really works, and the result is an indelible comedic creation like the deluded Ron Burgundy that not only makes us laugh but also reveals the character’s humanity. When it doesn’t work, as in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” now streaming on Netflix, it is all commitment and little humanity.
Ferrell plays Lars, a middle-aged Icelander whose love for the Eurovision Song Contest began in 1974 when he dancing in front of the TV, much to his father’s (Pierce Brosnan) chagrin, to ABBA’s winning performance of “Waterloo.” No one believes in his musical dreams except for his childhood friend Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), who loves him even though her affections don’t seem to be reciprocated. She believes in elves and drops little pearls of wisdom like, “Anger cannot churn butter.”
Together they are Fire Saga, a synth-pop duo who play to crowds at the local pub who only want to hear songs like “Ja Ja Ding Dong,” and not the “real music” Lars writes. Through a series of unlikely events they stumble into a spot on the Eurovision show. Lars’ father doesn’t want them to go. “All of Iceland will laugh at you,” he says. Undeterred, Lars soldiers on. “I have to become an international star to prove to my very handsome father and all of Iceland that I have not wasted my life.”
Lars and Sigrit’s experiences in their tiny fishing village of Húsav´ík do not prepared them for the cutthroat world of Eurovision. Will predatory singers, like Russian superstar Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens with a George Michael frosted-tip bouffant), and stage mishaps dampen Lars’ dreams of Eurovision fame?
“Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” should be a lot funnier than it is. It’s a little too loving of Eurovision’s kitschy spectacle to be a satire; a little too sincere to be truly silly, despite Ferrell’s ridiculous hair and even more outlandish sweaters. The comedy is further blunted by the film’s main conceit, that Lars and Sigrit are talentless wannabees. “We all know they are awful,” says the local Húsav´ík cop, “but they are our awful.” Thing is, in context, they fit like a puzzle piece next to the other over-the-top acts the movie showcases.
Ferrell brings the usual commitment to his trademarked arrogant man-child character but never pushes the characterization much beyond the way the townsfolk see him. “Lars is weird,” they all say, and Ferrell obliges, playing the character as the result of a damaged psyche—he feels unwanted by his father—and just a little too much confidence. It’s familiar ground for him and us.
McAdams feels like an odd choice to play opposite Ferrell’s exaggerated character. She’s good, but her more natural performance feels like it belongs in another movie.
The real Eurovision Song Contest won’t be happening this year, another victim of COVID-19, so perhaps “The Story of Fire Saga” will fill that gap for fans. If you tune in expect some scattered good moments. Ferrell delivers a few laughs and Stevens has fun but Lars and Sigrit’s protracted love story pushes the movie to an unwieldy 123 minutes with not quite enough laughs to justify the running time.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” “Going in Style,” “Song to Song” and the documentary “Giants of Africa.”
The all-animated Smurfs: The Lost Village aims to reintroduce the little blue creatures of Smurf Village to a new generation. It’s the first time more than one female Smurf exists in the community.
Featuring the voices of Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello and Michelle Rodriguez, it trades on its inherent cute factor and nostalgia for much of its appeal. There are some good messages for kids woven in and the animation is relentlessly adorable but is there anything here for anyone over the age of five?
In what may be the most adult plotline in Smurf history, it’s a hero’s journey, a character’s search for purpose. It’s Joseph Conrad via Smurf Village. Smurfette’s Heart of Darkness.
As voiced by Lovato, Smurfette ponders her place in the world. All the other perky pint-sized blue creatures have descriptive names — Clumsy Smurf (Jack McBrayer), Jokey Smurf (Gabriel Iglasias) and Baker Smurf (Gordon Ramsey) — but what exactly, she wonders, is ‘ette’ supposed to mean?
Smurf aficionados will know she is the only female Smurf, created by wizard Gargamel to sow the seeds of jealousy in Smurf Village. With the help of Papa Smurf she became a beacon of sweetness-and-light and the love interest of Smurfs everywhere.
That’s quite a backstory and her quest for purpose is certainly noble, even if her beginnings weren’t. The character was first introduced in Franco-Belgian comics magazine Spirou in 1966 as a marketing tool. According to writer Hal Erickson the comely Smurfette was created as a means to “bow to merchandising dictates” and “appeal to little girl toy consumers.”
It worked and in the decades that followed Smurfette became the most sought after toy from Smurf Village.
The Smurfs are big business, in addition to this weekend’s big screen animated feature, the “three apples tall” characters have been translated into 30 languages (en français: Les Schtroumpfs, in Dutch: De Smurfen) to create an estimated worth of $4 billion, but not all Smurf related marketing has been successful.
Remember Smurf-Berry Crunch? At the height of 1980s Smurf mania Post Cereal released a sugary breakfast cereal they claimed tasted, “like crunchy Smurf Berries… In berry red and Smurfy blue.” To ensure the Smurfiest experience possible Post added little blue corn puff berries laden with food colouring to the mix.
Unfortunately the blue additives weren’t easily digestible by the body, leading alarmed parents to report cases of blue and strange coloured poop after breakfast time. According to poopreport.com, “when metabolized in sufficient quantity, the blue dye combines with bile,” to form a rainbow effect at potty time. The problem was fixed with the release of Smurf Magic Berries, which contained smurfberries made of yellow corn puffs and marshmallows.
For Jack Black Smurf-Berry Crunch also brings back some bad memories. The Kung Fu Panda actor remembers his second professional gig, a breakfast food commercial. “Being in a Smurf-Berry Crunch cereal ad and being pulled along in a red wagon…?” he says, too humiliated to finish the sentence. “My stock plummeted at school.”
I was a bit too cynical to buy into the North American Smurf craze of the 1980s — they were so popular one writer called them “kiddie cocaine” — but now in 2017 I see them as something other than an hour-and-a-half advertisement for Smurfs Are Us.
The new incarnation is a sweet kids movie designed for little ones but with just enough grown-up material to keep parents interested.