Saturday, April 07, 2007
In Theaters: Blades of Glory
BLADES OF GLORY is the latest in what seems like an unbroken tradition of stupid comedies; thinking on it, there probably has never been a point in the history of film when movies like this WEREN'T being produced. But the genre's been on a roll lately, and BLADES OF GLORY more or less lives up to the standard we've come to expect. It's funny, vaguely forgettable, but well-made enough that it'll probably hold up to a second viewing anyway.
NAPOLEON DYNAMITE's Jon Heder plays Jimmy MacElroy, a champion figure skater raised by a, shall we say, controlling billionaire (William Fichtner) and living a life of extremely hygienic glory when he ties for gold in the legally-distinct-from-the-Olympics Stockholm games with oversexed street maverick Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell). Forced to share a podium, the two get into a vicious battle that leads to their being banned from the sport, their gold medals stripped from them. Jimmy is disowned, and years later, he's working at a sporting goods store while Chazz plays the evil wizard in a kids' ice show (a job that doesn't last after a drunken collapse on stage.) Jimmy is approached by a stalker fan (Nick Swardson- I think) who has been going over the rules, and points out that his expulsion doesn't apply to pairs skating. Jimmy searches for a partner at the ice show, where he runs into a vengeful Chazz, and another fight ensues, this one surprisingly graceful. Jimmy's old coach (Craig T. Nelson) witnesses the melee and convinces the two to become the first male-male pair in figure skating. Their major competition is the overly close brother and sister pairing of Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT's Will Arnett and SNL and the UCB's Amy Poehler), and the coach decides that to triumph over these darlings, Jimmy and Chazz will have to do something never seen before: the fabled Iron Lotus maneuver, a past attempt at which decapitated one of the skaters. Meanwhile, put upon sister Katie Van Waldenberg (THE OFFICE's Jenna Fisher) is guilted by her elder siblings into spying on the competing pair, but begins to strike up a genuine romance with Jimmy. This is not entirely to her brother and sister's disadvantage.
It's interesting how elaborate the plots of these comedies get when you write them out.
Movies like this come to depend on their casts, and it's here that BLADES succeeds the most. Heder and Ferrell have an almost instinctive- well, the formal word is "rapport" but I'm going to go with "ability to endlessly insult each other in entertaining ways." Like all good comic actors, they're willing to let themselves look ridiculous but not be too self-aware about it- Ferrell in particular always seems like he's taking his role seriously, investing even the biggest clown with dignity. That Poehler and Arnett are also funny is no big revelation, and though Fisher's role doesn't give her a lot to do that's terribly funny, she is a welcome presence. Nelson brings an entertaining mania to his role, and I hope this actually leads to more work for him.
The skating itself, of course, is done mostly by doubles with some computer enhancement, and it provides much of the amusement with its excessive spectacle and hilarious costumes. The music is usually pretty well-used; this movie single-handedly redeemed the song "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" for me, and the final choice of music for the climactic performance is just too good to spoil.
The film is fairly short, and it actually feels a bit too short. It's never really clear how Jimmy and Chazz initially overcome their distaste for each other to be able to compete. I also get the weird feeling that a subplot is missing; at one of the press conferences for the duo, you can see at least one or two people holding up gay rights placards, while Stranz and Fairchild initially express revulsion at the idea of two men competing together- there seem to be the remains of a parallel here, but whether it was ever longer, and whether it was cut for politics or just for length, I dunno. I await the inevitable unrated DVD. In any case, the cutting makes the pacing just a little choppy- while a movie like this isn't about the plot, generally these things are better when they actually make the story work in its own twisted way.
There's not a whole lot to say about BLADES OF GLORY, but it does what it sets out to do for the most part. If you don't like dumb comedies, you probably won't like this, but that doesn't mean much. If you do like dumb comedies, this'll do just fine.
Story by Busy Philipps
Screenplay by Jeff Cox & Craig Cox and John Altshuer and David Krinsky
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck