April 02, 2007

MOVIES: Blades of Glory (Josh Gordon & Will Speck, 2007)

Will Ferrell goes back to the goofball sports movie again, and gets just enough laughs to make the movie a mildly entertaining diversion.

This time, he's Chazz Michael Michaels, the most macho figure skater on the circuit; his archrival is Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder), the least macho figure skater on the circuit. After getting into a brawl at a competition, both men are banned from the sport, only to discover that a loophole will allow them to compete as a team in pairs' skating.

And so we get lots of jokes about how awful it is for two men to skate together (managing, I think, to stay barely on the right side of the line separating mere bad taste from outright homophobia), and lots of impressive special-effects enhanced stuntwork about the elaborate routines that Chazz and Jimmy perform.

The plot is paper-thin. There's a rival team, the magnificently named brother and sister Stranz and Fairchild Von Waldenburg (played by real-life husband and wife Will Arnett and Amy Poehler; Poehler is the funnier of the two by a long shot), and Jenna Fischer is blandly pleasant as their sister, the obligatory nice girl who serves as a love interest for Jimmy (he has to have a love interest so that we know he's not really gay, just really effeminate).

If you're a fan of figure skating, there's a lot you have to ignore here. Neither Ferrell nor Heder is remotely believable as a skater; they're both too tall and bulky; look at how they tower over former champion Scott Hamilton playing himself as a TV analyst. The movie uses the 6-point scoring system, which skating abandoned a few years back; and virtually none of the music we hear would actually be allowed as music in a real competition.

As for the cast, Jon Heder continues to have one of the most inexplicable careers in Hollywood. I don't think he's been funny in anything; the best I can say is that he's mildly less annoying here than he usually is. Ferrell plays the same type of buffoon he plays in all of his broad comedies, and although he does it very well, it's starting to be awfully predictable.

But the skating sequences are cleverly choreographed -- a big hand to the stunt skaters and the effects guys -- and the good jokes are just funny enough, and come just often enough, to keep me amused. I don't think it's good news, though, that Ferrell's now got a basketball comedy in the works; it really is time to find a new shtick.

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