You’d think Jon Heder would be well prepared to face the dregs of any wardrobe department after the high-water jeans and way-too-tucked-in T-shirt of “Napoleon Dynamite.” But his fitting for “Blades of Glory” still must have given him a fright. Not only is Heder tasked with pirouetting straight-faced around an ice-skating rink, he’s got to do it stuffed in a bodysuit of electric blue, layered with sparkles and capped at either wrist by a plastic plume of peacock feathers.
The spandexed world of figure skating can be summed up in a single word: pizzaz. All the athleticism required to vault oneself spinning several feet in the air ultimately means little if not coupled with big-smiled showmanship. That unavoidable combination undercuts the sport’s integrity just as much as it guarantees its TV ratings. It’s the Vegas revue of Olympic sports, and therefore pretty much perfect for reinvention as another Will Ferrell absurdist fantasyland.
Like mockumentary director Christopher Guest, Ferrell (“Anchorman”) has developed a special affinity for poking the soft spot of vulnerable subcultures. But while Guest’s large casts attempt to encompass the humanity of his targeted communities (dog shows, folk, heavy metal), Ferrell’s comedy relies substantially on his one-man show. And in “Blades of Glory,” he looks like he’s having a ball.
Not that he’s veering far from his established comedy course. Bad-boy pro-figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels is Ricky Bobby without the southern drawl and Ron Burgundy without the tremendous stache. In other words, he’s the same old Ferrell in a slightly new package. Self-described as “sex on ice,” Chazz exuberantly trash talks his competition and sends the ladies swooning with every split leap of his shredded leather pants.
Jimmy MacElroy’s (Jon Heder) appeal is more of the boy-wonder type. A skating dynamo since he could walk, Jimmy quickly develops into a national sensation, and his feathered blonde locks even spark a national rage. The Jimmy Curl. Raised with a one-track skating mind, sweet-natured Jimmy is naive to the point of exaggerated effeminancy, so when necessity forces him to combine with Chazz to form skating’s first all-male pairs team, petty bickering inevitably ensues.
Can Jimmy and Chazz overcome their differences to defeat their devious and vaguely German skating rivals, Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (“Arrested Development’s” Will Arnett and “SNL” alum Amy Poehler)? Of course they can. But first they have to slip into some sequins, glide in beautiful unison to the soulful strains of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and stir up a mix of sexual stereotypes that would whip any self-respecting gender studies major into a serious lather.
Clocking in at a merciful 90 minutes, the patent silliness of “Blades of Glory” only slightly overstays its welcome. Like other recent Ferrell comedies, the film lags in any scene with actual dramatic intent, but it perks up for its competition routines with a giddy delight in skating’s signature kitsch (the Van Waldenbergs’s themed tribute to “street culture” features Louis Vuitton denim and special Timberland skates).
The real-life skating community, however, is very much in on the joke. Sasha Cohen shrieks when she catches Chazz’s gallantly flung jockstrap, and Chazz himself sports a variety of tattoos in remembrance of past loves Michelle Kwan and Oksana Baiul. In its own self-mockery, the sport actually shows some class.
Blades of Glory
Rating:3 out of 5 Stars
At Showcase and Quality 16