REVIEW: BLADES OF GLORY

 

CAST

Will Ferrell (Zoolander)
Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite)
Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Amy Poehler (Mean Girls)
Jenna Fischer (Slither)
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles)
Romany Malco (No Ordinary Family)
Nick Swardson (Bolt)
Luciana Carro (Falling Skies)
Andy Richter (Scary Movie 2)
Rob Corddry (Operation: Endgame)
Nick Jameson (Frozen)
Luke Wilson (That 70s Show)
Katharine Towne (Evolution)

Professional figure skating is a subject so ripe for cinematic satire that it’s truly a wonder that ‘Blades of Glory’ is first big budget comedy to exploit it. The costumes, the music, the pageantry, the preening — as much as we may watch in awe as the enormously talented athletes create magic on the ice, it’s hard not to also stifle a giggle at the grandiose excess of it all.

Much the same way he did with formula one racing in “Talladega Nights” Will Ferrell lampoons the sport to great effect with ‘Blades of Glory.’ This fantastically silly, utterly preposterous comedy was the sleeper hit of early 2007, grossing over $100 million and for once delivering all the laughs its trailers promised.

Ferrell stars as Chazz Michael Michaels, an uber-hetero world-class figure skating champion (and adult film star, but nevermind that). After a on-rink run-in with his rival, the angel-cheeked skating prodigy Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder, not straying too far from his classic ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ persona), both are stripped of their gold medals and permanently banned from men’s single competition. However, after a few desperate years stuck on the has-been, quasi-celebrity skating circuit, the two find a loophole that will allow them to qualify as the world’s first all-male pairs team. Here is where ‘Blades of Glory’ could have simply been another of those one-joke movies — nothing more than a series of cringe-inducing homophobic barbs about how funny men in tights are. But if ‘Blades of Glory’ isn’t exactly high-brow, Ferrell and Heder find just the right tone in satirizing not “gayness,” but instead the male discomfort with the sexual stereotypes of “effeminate” sports like figure skating. Ferrell in particular creates such a hyper-masculine alpha male in Chazz — one who’s overcompensating to a ridiculous degree, that it becomes truly inspired social commentary. ‘Blades of Glory’ is actually quite astute, even sublime, in skewering male anxieties.Blades-of-Glory-liftThe film also doesn’t limit itself to obvious satire by having a field day with the highly-competitive nature of Olympic sports. Fulfilling the villain requirement are Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, a brother-sister team of rival German skaters who will do anything to defeat Chazz and Jimmy. As played by Will Arnett and Amy Poehler (who also happen to be married off-screen), they’re like Boris and Natasha on ice, twirling their mustaches as they hatch a series of increasingly bizarre schemes. It all leads to an extended chase sequence, as Stranz chases Chazz over ice, through a crowded shopping mall and finally onto the rink in a madcap bit of lunacy that is one of the movie’s highlight sequences.MV5BMTU3NjYxNzc1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTUyMjI0Nw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1494,1000_AL_If ‘Blades of Glory’ were only spandex and slapstick, however, it probably would have been nothing more than a second-rate “SNL” sketch that quickly wore out its welcome. But typical of Ferrell’s more recent penchant for humanistic comedy over sheer satire, he sets the tone for the rest of the film by plumbing some genuine (if completely ridiculous) pathos out of these larger-than-life characters. When Chazz is forced to endure a stint inside a giant furry animal costume in the kiddie spectacular “Grumlets on Ice” (a pitch-perfect parody of those awful Icecapades shows), he somehow manages to make it simultaneously sad, touching, and hilarious. Indeed, we will come to like all of the characters in ‘Blades of Glory,’ because however over-the-top they may be, there is a kernel of recognition to even their most outlandish behavior that rings true. Of course, ‘Blades of Glory’ is ultimately impervious to critical analysis, because it aims to be nothing more than just a very funny movie. It takes a sport that just cries out to be made fun of, hits the laugh bull’s-eye more than it misses.

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