Blades of Glory (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Will Ferrell can be the most maddening of comedians. There are times when he's so funny it hurts to watch him. Then there are times when he's so unfunny it's painful in a different way. Consistency, thy name isn't Ferrell. Blades of Glory is pretty much Talladega Nights on skates. It does for figure skating what the earlier film did for NASCAR - right down to the product placements. There are funny bits strewn about but the movie as a whole is a bit of a yawn. Blades of Glory is a feeble satire that doesn't do much that's incisive or interesting, and the tame PG-13 rating keeps the raunchiness in check.

Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) are polar opposites on and off the ice. Chazz is a freewheeling rolling stone. He doesn't have a coach and his defining characteristic is that he's a sex addict (as he tells just about everyone). Jimmy is graceful and technically adept, but his routines lack passion. When these two bitter rivals tie for a gold medal, they end up involved in a brawl that results in them being banned for life from the men's competition. That's when Coach (Craig T. Nelson, in familiar territory) gets a brilliant, offbeat idea: put them together and enter them as pairs skaters. The fact that they're both men will allow them to pull off moves never before attempted. The reigning king and queen of the ice, Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), don't like this threat to their supremacy and take measures to short-circuit it.

Maybe the problem with Blades of Glory is that it features too many Saturday Night Live stars. For the most part, they're not funny on T.V. and they don't have more success here. All the mugging for the camera, bad timing, and intentionally exaggerated hand and body gestures don't do much for me, nor do the pratfalls and gross-out gags (like Jimmy lapping up toilet paper off a public lavatory floor - and one senses this scene was significantly reduced in a display of semi-good taste). Or maybe the problem is that there's enough material here for an amusing sketch, but not for a full length movie. It's a telling point that co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck are making their feature debut after having partnered on two previous comedy shorts.

One would expect the subject matter to guarantee a slam-dunk because so many aspects of competitive skating are ripe for satire. (Where's Dick Button??) But Ferrell's daggers have duller edges than his skates, and his approach is as flabby as the belly he displays with great pride. On some level, he wants us to like the characters, so he never takes things too far. That makes for a comedy with no bite. It's a snoozefest that looks pallid in comparison with some of the more courageous and outrageous comedies to have graced the screen recently. (I'm thinking of Borat in particular, which showed no fear.)

Commenting on the technical aptitude of a low-budget comedy is probably as irrelevant as mentioning its dramatic integrity, but the effects work and editing in Blades of Glory is especially poor, particularly during the skating sequences. Maybe part of the joke is supposed to be that every performance in the movie is godawful and obviously fake, but the fact that it's possible to see where computer animation comes into play diminishes the movie's ability to make us laugh. This is rectified somewhat in Chazz and Jimmy's final skate, which displays some creativity and humor, but that's a small fraction of the time spent on the ice.

The gay jokes are kept to a surprising minimum, although that subtext can't be ignored. Ferrell represents masculinity at its most crude while John Heder, who appears doomed never to live down the iconic role of Napoleon Dynamite, gets the effeminate mannerisms and the female characteristics. It's ironic that a straightforward skating movie like The Cutting Edge had more success playing with gay stereotypes than the comedic Blades of Glory. And that leads us to the movie's central flaw: it's not funny enough to be worth the price of admission. With these kinds of marks, Blades of Glory isn't going to win many championships.

Blades of Glory (United States, 2007)

Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2007-03-30
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1