Figures of fun: “‘Blades’ lands triple axle with consistent laughs
Blades of Glory
Directors: Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Cast: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler and Jenna Fischer
Opens March 30 in wide release.
1 hr. 33 min. PG-13
“As if figure skating wasn’t gay enough already,” a fan grumbles when Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) become the first male-male pair in the history of the sport.
Despite the potential for another “Wild Hogs,” that’s as homophobic as “Blades of Glory” gets, and just about as gay. This consistently funny comedy attempts to do to figure skating what “Talladega Nights” did to NASCAR racing, but “Blades” is far more structured and disciplined. It has to be, when the skating routines are created in a computer. I can’t figure out how they did some of those effects, but that’s what DVD extras are for.
Chazz and Jimmy are bitter rivals. When they share a gold medal in an Olympic-like event, their fight in the winners’ circle gets them banned from competition skating for life. You’d think they could still make a fortune touring, but this isn’t a movie to think about. So three-and-a-half years later, Jimmy is selling skates and Chazz is skating in a kiddie show with his face hidden.
Hector (Nick Swardson, the movie’s secret weapon), Jimmy’s most obsessive fan, finds a loophole. While he’s banned from the Male Singles Division, there’s nothing keeping Jimmy from competing as half of a pair. Or as a woman (well, there’s something preventing that but he never uses it anyway), but the possibility of a sex change is never raised.
Both men need convincing they’re used to hating each other and their skating and personal styles are vastly different but Jimmy’s former coach (Craig T. Nelson) persuades them to team up, just in time to qualify for the National Figure Skating Championship, the stepping stone to the next international competition.
A choreographer (Romany Malco) is brought in to teach them to dance together.
“Your problem is your boundaries,” he tells them.
He gives them a routine that looks like a gay Kama Sutra on ice, but the move that’s going to put them over is the Iron Lotus, which the coach created years ago but abandoned because of the high probability of one of the partners being decapitated.
Chazz and Jimmy’s chief competition and all-around poor sports are “America’s brother and sister darlings,” Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild Van Waldenburg (Amy Poehler), part of a skating dynasty. They’re assisted by their sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer), who happens to bring out heterosexual impulses in the androgynous Jimmy.
The screenplay is silly but surprisingly coherent for having been written by as large a staff as a sitcom. And “Blades of Glory” is one of the rare comedies that can’t cram all its gags into the trailer.
Heder, in blonde curls that worked for Shirley Temple, finally emerges from the shadow of “Napoleon Dynamite” to suggest career longevity. He’s the ice of the “Fire and Ice” pair, or perhaps the sugar in “Sugar and Spice.” Ferrell, recovering from the box-office misstep of “Stranger than Fiction,” which was too good for his fans, is back in stride as the arrogant, sex-addicted Chazz.
It’s not a stretch for him but it’s a delight for us, as is the constant bickering between the two men.
There are cameo appearances by Luke Wilson, Andy Richter and several well-known figures from the skating world to add to the fun.
It seems daring to have entrusted a film like this to novice directors. Josh Gordon and Will Speck had only a couple of shorts (one of them Oscar-nominated) to their credit, but they’ve pulled off the equivalent of an Iron Lotus with “Blades of Glory.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 30, 2007