Mark Reviews Movies

BLADES OF GLORY

2 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Cast: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, Craig T. Nelson, William Fichtner

MPAA Rating: PG-13  (for crude and sexual humor, language, a comic violent image and some drug references)

Running Time: 1:33

Release Date: 3/30/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

I was warming up to Will Ferrell. His early career on "Saturday Night Live" and supporting roles in movies always suffered from a case of showboat syndrome. He was always the clown, even if that meant going against the spirit and gist of the material at hand. Some find that funny; I don't. He showed in Elf that he could focus on the material and still be genuinely funny without trying, and he did the same again in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, fighting off the potential for showing off that could easily come with such silly material. Then Stranger Than Fiction showed him to be a comic with the capability to be an actor, but now he's working on silly material again in Blades of Glory. The result is not as unpleasant as his early stuff, but it definitely has enough hints of attention-nabbing to question where he'll end up. The movie itself is an occasionally amusing, once hilarious, and finally absurd bit of silliness aimed at the pretentiously self-absorbed world of figure skating that's more concerned with forcing random humor within its setup than finding the real humor that's there.

As a young boy growing up in an orphanage, Jimmy (Jon Heder) was an innately talented ice skater, so much so that billionaire sports entrepreneur Darren MacElroy (William Fichtner) adopted him to groom him into a figure skating champion. Jimmy is competing for the gold medal in the world championship and scores high marks for his elegant, technical proficient performance. Ferrell plays Jimmy's rival Chazz Michael Michaels, the bad-boy of figure skating, whose attitude and suggestive moves get the crowd riled up and score him equal marks. Neither one is happy with the tie, and after a fight between the two escalates (leaving the crowd silent, save for a single, crying little girl), they are stripped of their medals and banned for life from men's figure skating. Three and a half years later, Chazz drunkenly works as an evil wizard in a kiddie ice show, and Jimmy is a clerk at a skate shop. Jimmy's obsessive stalker Hector (Nick Swardson, who can't disappear quickly enough from the movie) found a loophole in the rules, and Jimmy can skate in pair skating competition. After Chazz and Jimmy fight again on the national news, Jimmy's old coach (Craig T. Nelson) realizes that they could be partners.

The conflicting personality clash on display here is entirely basic, but the movie doesn't bother too much with it in the first place, dwindling it down to Jimmy and Chazz hurling insults at each other while slowly developing camaraderie. All of that is shown in a montage of the pair learning to dance with other men and slowly improving. The montage in inspirational sports movies is already an established and laughable cliché, and it seems to be becoming just as much of one in satires of the genre too. Instead of venturing out beyond this kind of familiar comic material, the script (by Jeff and Craig Cox, John Altschuler, and David Krinsky) brings in the strange Van Waldenberg brother and sister duo (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), whose predictable final note isn't bothered to be set up throughout (apparently in a failed attempt to shock, since it's obvious from the beginning). There's also their pretty but ignored sister Katie (Jenna Fischer), who's sent in to spy on Chazz and Jimmy after a guilt trip from her siblings about their parents' death, and she obviously falls in love with the unassuming Jimmy.

Everything in the setup is obvious, and the execution of those gags is hit and miss, weighing on the side of the latter. There are a lot of cameos by famous skaters (Nancy Kerrigan, Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Sasha Cohen, etc.), but nothing is done with them beyond planting their face on the screen. A joke involving Chazz telling stories about the meaning of his tattoos (all sexual adventures with famous skaters) fall entirely flat, as does a running gag (less a running gag, more a continuous mention) involving his sex addiction. Part of it, of course, is Ferrell's aforementioned tendency to ham when it isn't necessary, but it's not exactly funny stuff in the first place. Slightly better are the Van Waldenbergs' routines, which work fine as satire of the bloated pomp of the sport but aren't exactly worth a laugh. That honor goes to the heroes' first routine. Full of homoerotic choreography (a crotch grab here, an upright 69 there) and set to Aerosmith's bombastic ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," the sequence is outright hilarious, tears-forming-from-laughter kind of stuff. Then the movie ventures into the absurd, as they learn a mythical maneuver that usually results in decapitation, and there's a chase on ice skates with no ice.

The movie's later absurd material is more consistently amusing than the earlier satirical look at the sport, but it still leaves one to wonder if the screenwriters simply gave up on their formulaic comic machinations late in the game for lack of ideas. Blades of Glory has a few moments, and some might call it Ferrell's return to early comic form. If that appeals to you, fine. It doesn't do anything for me.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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