Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell, continuing the tradition of giving his character’s ludicrous names, i.e., Ricky Bobby, Ron Burgundy), vies for the gold medal in Men’s Figure Skating at the World Passport Games. His main rival, Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), adopted by his dad (William Fichtner) because he stood the best chance of winning a gold medal, is so famous he has a stalker. They tie at the Games and their egos get in the way during the medal ceremony causing the mascot to catch fire. The Skating Federation Committee (chaired by actor William Daniels, but populated with Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan and Brian Boitano) immediately ban both from the sport. Three and a half years later, MacElroy’s dad has disowned him and Jimmy now works in a sports shop. Michaels is now working in a low budget ice show. MacElroy learns of a loophole; he was banned from Men’s Figure Skating, but he can still compete in pairs. Jimmy approaches Michaels at the ice show and they soon convince MacElroy’s old coach (Craig T. Nelson) to help them train. The attention they garner makes Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (real-life husband and wife Will Arnett, TV’s “Arrested Development”, and Amy Poehler, TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), an incestuous brother and sister Pairs Figure Skating team, jealous. They will stop at nothing to remain number one and get another gold medal. They guilt trip their normal sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer, TV’s “The Office”), into spying on the new competition.
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck and written by a number of writers who have worked on previous films starring Will Ferrell, the film is tailor made as a showcase for Ferrel’s talents. And this is part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong, “Blades” has some laughs and Ferrell is very funny, he usually is. But Ferrell is, essentially, playing it safe here with a basic variation of the same character he has already played as Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby. Chazz Michael Michaels is dumb, a lummox who is amazingly a figure skating champion, and also a sex addict. These are all traits he seems to be channeling from the other characters he has already portrayed. When an actor surrounds themselves with the same writers and same director (or caliber of director) on a consistent basis, and they cater to the star’s talents, how is the star ever going to grow and show us his true talents? Or remind us of the brilliance he once showed. This is one of the reasons why “Stranger than Fiction” was so great. Ferrell was working outside of his comfort zone and doing great work. Much more low key work, but great nonetheless. In “Blades of Glory”, he plays a safer character almost guaranteeing the film will be a financial success ensuring a steady flow of $20 million paychecks.
That said, just the sight of Ferrell, with his less than chiseled body, on figure skates, wearing Lycra costumes, is a funny image. And he plays into the stereotypical perception we have of sports stars, the world is theirs and everyone else is a guest. As his career hits the skids, he becomes a performer in an ice show, guzzling booze while in costume, and has a few funny moments. Later, as he goes to counseling for his sex addiction, the film takes a wrong turn. The idea is funny, but beyond a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, nothing funny is really done with it. Also, the film is PG-13 and constant references to sex addiction seem a little out of place for the majority of the audience.
Jon Heder is good as Jimmy MacElvoy (and a major improvement from his last role in “School for Scoundrels”). Clearly patterned after skaters like Brian Boitano and Elvis Stoyko, MacElvoy has a shock of platinum blond hair, always perfectly coiffed, and seems most at home when skating and performing a tribute to peacocks. He is completely smitten with Katie and this leads to some sweet moments.
As Jimmy and Chazz practice, Jimmy appears to be enjoying some of the hand holds Chazz is using, leading us to question if Jimmy is straight. It seems odd that in a film about figure skating, all of the lead characters are straight and there is never a question about their sexuality. In fact, Chazz seems to have the sexual addiction to erase any possibility that he isn’t heterosexual. The same can be said of Will Arnett’s character; he almost seems to be interested in his sister to erase any possibility of being gay. But in this case, the incestuous relationship provides an interesting slant and a couple of laughs, pointing out how seriously screwed up they are. Jimmy is a little more ambiguous, but he is clearly interested in Katie and they go on a date. They missed a golden opportunity at satire with this omission. How many times have we seen a flamboyant male figure skater win medals and then the rumors begin swirling? Often, they vehemently deny they are gay. Sometimes, they admit it. If the filmmakers included one gay character, they could have addressed some of these issues. Yes, I know. Not very politically correct, but these films are usually at least a little Un-PC so it seems a bit of a let down when they aren’t.
Will Arnett and Amy Poehler are more consistently funny as the brother-sister Pairs team who dress up in outrageous outfits, do interpretations of famous events and like to lounge around on bear skin rugs. At one point, we see Arnett’s Stranz running around in a suit with rhinestone pinstripes and a Presidential Seal on the back. A few moments later, we see Poehler’s Fairchild running around dressed like Marilyn Monroe.
Unfortunately, Jenna Fischer just doesn’t even register on screen. When an actor is surrounded by people playing broad, over the top characters, they have to work very hard to make a ‘normal’ character seem normal. Fischer plays Katie, the guilt-ridden sister of Stranz and Fairchild. She is supposed to be the normal person of the lot and she is, just way too normal. Anytime she appears on screen, she speaks in her soft, pleasant voice, much like her character, Pam, on “The Office”. Because she is surrounded by such insanity, she doesn’t even make an impression. It’s too bad, because I think she has some talent and could prove a nice romantic comedy lead.
William Fichtner, Rob Corddry and others pop up in cameos. Craig T. Nelson plays Coach, their trainer and motivator.
The finale is a bit long on antics and short on actual skating. It seems like it would have been more interesting for them to integrate the two a little more completely.
“Blades of Glory” is a fun movie, but it could’ve been more or a contender; funnier, raunchier, more madcap than it is. As it plays now, it will probably become the type of film that you will most likely leave on if you run across it playing on cable. You won’t search it out, but if it’s on, you probably won’t turn it off.