To steal the tagline from another skating film, Blades of Glory is a movie about a love/skate relationship. What makes this one unique is that the love part is platonic and the skate part is two men. Like its predecessor, the 1992 romantic comedy The Cutting Edge, Blades of Glory is predictable but definitely holds its own.
After the disappointing Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell returns in this quirky comedy about figure skating, with a plot that immediately puts the film on thin ice. Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) is figure skating’s bad boy. In fact, he helps put the ”bone in zamboni.” Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) is the quintessential Mama’s boy (though raised without a mother), who was adopted by a man with one goal in mind: gold. After a brawl on the ice, both Michaels and MacElroy are expelled from men’s singles competition for the rest of their lives.
Thanks to Jimmy’s stalker Hector (Nick Swardson, woefully underused), they realize that the only way to skate again is in the men’s pair category. Together. It’s enough to send shock waves through the entire sport, but really, it’s figure skating, not hockey. It can’t be that shocking.
From here on out, we get the Ice Capades version of the Odd Couple.
Ferrell does what he does best — play a character who is over the top but still lovable. Whether strutting around in his towel showing off his tattoos or hitting on women at Sex Addicts Anonymous, he avoids being downright annoying by embracing the pathetic side of Chazz. Too conceited to see past his own shortcomings, Chazz is so outrageous it’s actually possible to see past his shortcomings.
Heder, best known for his role in Napoleon Dynamite, plays the more restrained skating partner and gives the more restrained performance. That’s a good thing, because one Will Ferrell in a movie is enough. Heder captures Jimmy’s spoiled-rich kid innocence and determination with great comic timing.
In a strong ensemble cast, some favorite television actors show up as, well, their television characters. Stranz Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett) is essentially Arrested Development‘s Gob without the magic (er, illusions) and Katie Van Waldenberg (Jenna Fischer) is channeling the cute, innocent Pam from The Office. And frankly, it works. The final member of the Van Waldenberg family, Fairchild (Amy Poehler), is the real evil mastermind in the movie, determined to win at any cost. Husband and wife off the screen, Arnett and Poehler give great performances as the rival skating siblings with Poehler the perfect manipulative ice queen.
A number of skating greats make cameos, including Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, Brian Boitano, and Dorothy Hamill. For those Gold medal winners who aren’t actually in the film, let’s just say they get featured in another way.
The potential for homophobia in the film is tremendous, but the humor rarely devolves into the crass use of anti-gay jokes for kicks. Naturally there are the moments of uncomfortable touching during the skating routines that get some laughs, but directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck are remarkably restrained in this aspect. Even deciding which skater will lead and which will follow avoids any lewd jokes. Both Chazz and Jimmy are unquestioningly heterosexual (despite the hair) and do a good job at conveying the male-bonding between the men as strictly straight.
Starring Will Ferrell, Jon Heder
For Ferrell, Blades of Glory marks a return to a more outlandish role after his low-key but surprisingly good performance in Stranger Than Fiction. It’s more Old School Ferrell. Which will be a relief for many of his fans who were nervous that Blades of Glory would be another crash-and-burn NASCAR fiasco.
Of course there are the cheap laughs from crotch kicks and the like, but a strong cast of comedic actors combine physical comedy with a funny premise to deliver a winner. Blades of Glory isn’t worthy of a gold medal, but it deserves at least the bronze.