March 29, 2007

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Blades of Glory (PG-13)
Will Ferrell lets his paunch do the acting in Blades of Glory, a movie that reinforces the idea that having a guy’s face in another guy’s crotch is comedy gold.

Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) is a precision figure skater. He performs every twist, every jump as though he were a computer simulation (which, OK, he is, and a bad one, but the outfits aren’t the only part of this movie that will defy belief). Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) is “sex on ice” and, if your idea of sexy is a pudgy chest covered in a sheen of sweat, a name-your-eighties-stadium-rock-group tribute band haircut and a sense that he would smell of Doritos, I guess Chazz has sexy all wrapped up.

These boys with their Felix and Oscar approaches to skating face off in an international figure skating competition. Jimmy’s slightly-shorter Farrah hair swishes, Chazz’s hips grind and in the end, they tie. This, of course, is too much for the ego-too-big-for-his-already-too-small-pants Chazz and the pair end up brawling on the ice (and, in one of the movie’s funniest bits, they accidentally set the competition’s mascot on fire). Judges (including Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill) decide that this is conduct unbecoming their mighty sport and ban Jimmy and Chazz from competing.

Fast forward three years and Jimmy is working in a sporting goods store; Chazz is giving drunken performances at a discount icecapades. After throwing up in his character’s head and finding himself out of work, Chazz runs into Jimmy, who is hanging around the lobby. Jimmy, it seems, is looking for a partner. Jimmy’s stalker, who has pored over skating federation regulations, has discovered a loophole. Though banned for life, Jimmy and Chazz are only banned from their divisions — men’s singles. Jimmy searches for a girl to skate doubles with but his former coach (Craig T. Nelson) has another idea. Since time is short and they can’t train a new girl in time for the upcoming international competition, why not use Chazz? Together, the coach tells the extremely skeptical men, Chazz and Jimmy could perform stunts that a man and a woman would never have the strength to do.

Both in need of glory and steady work, Chazz and Jimmy warily decide to skate together. Though the hockey world is at first horrified at the thought of two men caressing each other as they skate through “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,” the crowd warms to these talented athletes and soon Chazz and Jimmy find themselves in reach of dethroning world champion couple skaters, the creepy brother/sister team of Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild Von Waldenberg (Amy Poehler).

A good half of the comedy in Blades of Glory is a kind of nervous giggling at the fey-er aspects of figure skating. I don’t know that I’d go as far as to call it homophobic but it lacks the kind of knowing cleverness that made Ferrell’s reactions to the overtures of Sacha Baron Cohen’s character in Talladega Nights seem funny (Ferrell’s character is ultimately shown to be the fool for being afraid to kiss a boy) rather than boorish. The rest of the comedy here is physical — from the aforementioned face-to-crotch shot (which also kind of falls in the first category) and general pratfalls on the ice to Ferrell’s much-used shtick of bragging about his super-sexy physique all while accentuating the doughiness of it. The strange is-the-movie-laughing-at-us-or-with-us pose of Talladega Nights is gone as is the overt stupidity of Anchorman. In fact, compared to those two movies, I kinda think the problem with Blades of Glory is that it isn’t stupid enough. Had it gone stupider, been more obvious, the comedy might have worked better.

As it is, Blades of Glory feels a little prefab. It feels like a movie written for a Will Ferrell type rather than specifically for Ferrell. The radio show Fresh Air recently reran an interview with Ferrell where he talked about the signs of a good and bad script and how, if the writers expected him to fill in the funny later, that was a sign it was a bad script. I don’t know that that’s what happened here, but there is a general sense that someone thought Ferrell’s fleshy presence, not his comic abilities to get the most out of good material, was enough. C-

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, a comic violent image and some drug references. Directed by Josh Gorden and Will Speck and written by Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, Busy Philips, John Altschuler and David Krinsky, Blades of Glory is an hour and 33 minutes long and will open on March 30 in wide release. It is distributed by Paramount Pictures