Farrell: All gut, some ‘Glory’

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Selecting men’s ice dancing as a source of parody in a sports film is like picking on the scrawny, bespectacled, asthmatic kid on the playground. When “Blades of Glory” was announced, it seemed too easy a target, and perhaps would be no more than a drawn-out film version of that classic “Saturday Night Live” skit on synchronized swimming (if you hurry, you can check it out on Youtube before NBC’s lawyers strip it away). What is surprising is that despite the one-joke premise, despite the potential parade of same-sex jokes, and despite the incredibly limited ability of lead Jon Heder, “Blades of Glory” is funnier than it has any right to be. It has more than one weapon in its arsenal of amusement. First, the film features that slave to silliness, Will Ferrell, in yet another variation of his arrogant, clueless man-child as Chazz Michael Michaels. I fully realize there are two Ferrell camps, so those who rate his appeal just below chaffing, might I suggest you just turn a few pages of the paper and head right to Fritz Schrank’s always-excellent column.
Second, the filmmakers had the intelligence to give Ferrell formidable foes on the rink with the real-life husband-and-wife team of Will Arnett (from the best sitcom in the history of television, “Arrested Development”) and “Saturday Night Live’s” Amy Poehler.
But what ultimately saves “Blades” is its humanity. Sure, it goes for the several cheap gay jokes that would obviously accompany a film featuring male ice dancing, but those are vague, throwaway gags that find humor more in the awkwardness from the alpha males than the overtly homophobic contempt found in lesser comedies from the likes of Adam Sandler and that ilk.
“Blades” freezes, though, every time things are left in the dainty hands of Jon Heder. Not only does he mangle his own time on screen, but he acts as a comedy vortex, actually siphoning humor from other aspects of the film and deadening the pace. All I can say is that Heder must have some pretty nasty pictures of some of the Hollywood higher-ups in order to continue to get work.
In “Blades,” the costume department does its best to squeeze humor out of Heder’s appearance – peacock plumage, a hideous ‘70s shaggy hairdo and two protruding front teeth that look like glistening Chiclets; he resembles the mutant lovechild of magician Doug Henning and a Care Bear.
Heder plays Jimmy MacElroy, a figure-skating prodigy picked from an orphanage by a shifty, filthy rich businessman (played by and amusing William Fichtner in an all-too-brief role) who solely wants to turn the boy into a world class champion.
But MacElroy’s effete preening and prancing across the ice is in direct contrast to Michaels’ pelvic thrusts and lewd moves (he’s been known to rip off his jockstrap and toss it into the crowd of fawning female ice groupies) and who is described by an announcer as an “ice dancing sex tornado.”.
After a tie, the two scuffle and are subsequently banned from the sport, only to find that a Skating Federation loophole will allow them both back into the sport – as a couple.
That’s it really, storywise. But the film is able to glide along on the appeal of its actors whose last names aren’t Heder and a sprinkling of left-field humor.
As for the actual skating (of which there is relatively little, oddly), it’s up to Arnett and Poehler to offer up the film’s most inspired bits. Their “Ode to Hip-Hop” routine and JFK-Marilyn Monroe dance interpretation are the surreal moments that set “Blades” ablaze.
“Blades” could have benefited from more moments of this sharper edge, but it has enough momentum, heart and heat to keep it from dipping into Tonya Harding-like depths of despair.

~ by usesoapfilm on September 11, 2007.

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