March 31, 2007

Movie Review: Blades of Glory

Posted in Movies at 2:46 pm by Calico Jack

After taking a detour into melancholy territory with last year’s film Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell returns to his comedic roots in the pleasingly humorous Blades of Glory. Although it sticks closely to the Ferrell Formula established in Anchorman and Talladega Nights (egotistical newscaster/race car driver/ice skater faces adversity, loses #1 position, must learn to work with others in order to regain first-ranked spot), Blades of Glory is slightly better than either of the previous two films due to its more consistently funny lines and the presence of a foil (Jon Heder) who can more than hold his own against Ferrell’s shtick.

Ferrell plays the pretentiously-named Chazz Michael Michaels, a middle-aged, showboating ice skater who uses his outrageously sexualized antics on the ice to draw the love of the crowds — most especially the ladies. Competing in the men’s finals of the 2002 Winter Olympics along with Michaels is his archrival Jimmy MacElroy (Heder), whose graceful performances and swan-like motions have kept the two of them rotating in and out of the top spot in every competition they’ve entered.

After an unexpected tie leads both skaters to the gold-medal podium, Michaels and MacElroy lose their tempers and engage in a brawl that ends with them banned from men’s figure skating for life. Three and a half years later, Michaels lives as a washed-up rock star, performing in a costumed ice musical and swilling enough booze to entertain the hookers in his backstage dressing room. After being disowned by his greedy adoptive father (William Fichtner in a nice Prison Break-esque role), MacElroy sells skates for a living. Enter Jimmy’s fawning stalker-fan who arrives at the ski shop one day to tell him that — surprise, surprise — according to the rules manual, a lifetime ban only applies to the division in which Jimmy was skating. (It took the fan over three years to figure that out? He must have been an awfully slow reader.) This means that MacElroy can skate in the pairs division for the upcoming Nationals; all he has to do is find a partner.

Through a stroke of scriptwriting fortune, Michaels and MacElroy run into each other and repeat their escapades from several years earlier by once again brawling, leading MacElroy’s former coach to come up with the bright idea of putting two men into pairs skating. The second half of Blades of Glory mostly focuses on Michael and MacElroy’s training for the National Championships against their new rivals, a brother and sister duo (played with perfect comedic timing by real-life spouses Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) who, when not cuddling on bearskin rugs and bemoaning the number of “freaks” in the sport, will stop at nothing to crush Michaels and MacElroy in the competition–including forcing their younger sister Katie (Jenna Fischer from The Office) to act as a spy…although Katie could be just the thing Jimmy needs to get rid of of some of his more feminine attributes.

Much of the humor in Blades of Glory is extremely broad and rather dumb, but it’s also quite funny (although not gut-wrenchingly hilarious); and directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck know not to get in the way of their actors. Ferrell and Heder nicely play off of each other’s lines, and Heder especially shows that he can get past his Napoleon Dynamite mannerisms that have plagued him in his last several films. Blades of Glory also doesn’t get bogged down in its own script, keeping the less-thin-than-it-could-have-been plot humming along quite smoothly for an hour and a half. There are some nice in-jokes for skating fans, including a who’s who cameo of former skating stars and Scott Hamilton as an overly earnest on-air personality. This critic also appreciated several subtle touches to detail, such as overlaying snippets of curling while an announcer proudly talks about “the best in winter sports!”

Blades of Glory won’t make anyone’s top-10 lists for the year, but it is a funnier-than-average comedy with some nice visual gags and a uniformly strong supporting cast. Apart from a few missteps (one being a particular scene in North Korea that really takes the film out of its comedic element) and a ludicrous final scene that goes from plausibility to fantasy in a few short seconds, Blades of Glory keeps its audience smiling and laughing — which is more than many modern comedies can say. Stay for the end credits to watch a hilarious scene involving Jimmy’s stalker and several dolls.

B.

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