Blades of Glory

2007bladesofglory

Movie review by Greg Carlson

Will Ferrell has made an almost effortless transition from “Saturday Night Live” to feature film stardom, but it is no surprise that he is often superior to the movies in which he plies his trade. “Blades of Glory,” in which Ferrell plays one half of the world’s first same-sex ice skating duo falls squarely in the aforementioned category. Ferrell is consistently funny, but the movie itself leaves a great deal to be desired. Borrowing heavily from the “Zoolander” playbook, even down to the short video biographies that introduce the central characters, “Blades of Glory” scrapes up just enough laughs to make the whole enterprise bearable. The movie is a far cry, however, from Ferrell at his best, falling short of the absurdity of “Anchorman” and even “Talladega Nights.”

As the wolfish, egotistical, and sex-addicted Chazz Michael Michaels, Ferrell reheats some of the same oafish masculinity that has served him well in previous outings. Sporting a dark mop of hair and a closet filled with studded, fringed leather, Chazz relies on a lethal combination of shoot-from-the-hip improvisation on the ice and brain-dead non-sequiturs whenever he opens his mouth. His rival is the effeminate Jimmy MacElroy (John Heder), a former child prodigy adopted by a billionaire for the sole purpose of winning medals. Following an award ceremony scuffle, both men are banned for life from the singles division, but a rulebook loophole allows for the possibility of a partnered team-up.

As improbable as that sounds, the former opponents end up needing each other to revitalize their shattered skating dreams, and a weird alliance is forged under the direction of a seasoned coach played nicely by Craig T. Nelson. “Blades of Glory” scurries along at a mostly brisk clip, alternating between computer-assisted ice dancing routines and the behind-the-scenes politics of Jimmy and Chazz’s odd coupling. The movie also struggles mightily to squeeze some mileage out of a half-baked subplot involving an incestuous brother-sister team and their put upon younger sibling.

Real life couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett play Fairchild and Stranz Van Waldenberg, but the anemic screenplay affords neither of the gifted comics much of a chance to show the kind of brilliant comedy for which they are known. Their characters are scarcely recognizable as human beings, despite a handful of funny bits, including a number scored by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s staple “Good Vibrations.” As their younger sister, Jenna Fischer fares better, striking a balance between sweet innocence and naïve confusion as she navigates between her domineering siblings and a budding romance with Jimmy.

Viewers not expecting a great deal should be pleased, as “Blades of Glory” skewers a variety of expected figure skating clichés. From the sexually charged physicality of the complex choreography to the outré spandex costumes, the movie takes pleasure in good-naturedly chuckling at a sport that is ripe for parody. Cameo appearances by a gallery of skating stars add to the movie’s credibility, and nearly all of the routines, especially Chazz’s outlandish number set to Billy Squier’s “The Stroke,” deliver the goods.

This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 4/2/07.

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