With what's basically an extension of his Ricky Bobby character from Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell once again arrives in theaters doing what he does best -- playing a complete ass. This time, however, he's traded in his spiffy race car for a pair of ice skates and a role opposite Napoleon Dynamite (if he swapped his sketch pad for a part as the fourth Hanson brother). Blades of Glory is everything you'd expect from the trailers -- silly, dumb and predictable. It's far from inspiring, and it won't make you cry, but the film does provide enough stupid humor (thanks to Ferrell's familiar shtick) to make it worth the price of an admission ticket. That's if you don't mind your IQ dropping down a few notches in exchange for a brief chuckle or three.
Not only are
Chad Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) considered two of the top men's solo figure skaters, but they're also bitter rivals from different sides of the tracks. Michaels is a sex addict with a love for hard liquor and fast women, while MacElroy is a conservative prodigy raised from a very young age to live, eat and breathe The Ice. When both men tie for the gold medal at the Olympics in Stockholm, their trash talking on the podium leads to an all-out brawl in front of a packed house -- an embarrassing ordeal that ultimately ends with both men being banned from competitive figure skating. What them, their coaches, their team of attorneys, and the entire world fail to notice is that they're banned from solo skating, yes, but not pairs skating. So guess what happens?
That's right! Three years later, they toss their differences aside, bring on Craig T. Nelson to play (wink, wink) their coach, and become the world's first all-male figure skating duo. After what feels like a 45-minute Wayans Bros. spoof of The Cutting Edge, Michaels and MacElroy must face off against their arch-rivals, Stranz Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett) and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Amy Poehler), in order to conquer their fears, fulfill their dreams and ... that's it. That's Blades of Glory. Somewhere in between, a love story blooms between MacElroy and the Van Waldenberg's guilt-ridden little sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer), but she's underdeveloped and -- let's be realistic -- it's hard to root for Heder's character when all you want to do is give him a wedgie and tear up his posters of Tom Wopat, as Luke Duke.
Of course, with Ben Stiller as a heavily-involved producer, the film is packed with a slew of useless cameos. Look, there's Luke Wilson at a sex addicts meeting! But he has four lines. And they're all boring. Part of the problem here is that all of these cameos were performed opposite Will Ferrell -- a man who, while on screen, demands all of your attention. He's so outrageous, so spontaneous, that folks like Rob Corddry, Will Arnett, Jon Heder and especially first-time feature director's Josh Gordon and Will Speck cannot keep up. These guys aren't Adam Mckay; they don't know how to exploit Ferrell's greatest strengths, and yet still manage to utilize a multi-talented supporting cast. Poheler and Arnett should shine, but their characters felt mis-managed and awkward. It's fun to watch at times -- especially during the elaborate ice skating sequences -- but when they're not attempting a triple axle, it becomes "let's reach into the Ferrell Grab Bag and see which character we come up with!" And for the majority of the time, that character is Ricky Bobby ... with longer hair, a sex addiction and a severe drinking problem.
It's great that Hollywood finally managed to stage a comedic assault on the ice skating world, but they attack with very little firepower: two newbie directors and a disorganized, unoriginal script. William Fichter turns up early on with what was perhaps the film's most under-the-radar performance as MacElroy's over-bearing adoptive father, but disappears twenty minutes in. Why wasn't he used later on in a final showdown against the son he abandoned? Same goes for Nick Swarsdon, who plays MacElroy's creepy stalker Hector. Since he's used so much in those opening scenes, the character is pushed onto the chopping block and re-appears only at the very end, and for no other reason than to yank one more laugh out of you (make sure to stay for the credits; Swarsdon gets his revenge on a script that didn't use him properly).
Gordon and Speck do attempt to have some fun with the world they're playing in. If you're a big ice skating fan, then you'll be happy to see familiar faces like Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, Sasha Cohen (handling a jock strap, no less), Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano (who's already suffered his fare share of cheap shots courtesy of South Park) show up to join the party. Julie Weiss' hysterical costume design helps provide most of the visual gags and, with the exception of a few scenes which just looked too over-the-top fake, the ice skating routines are truly a treat to watch. If you thought Ferrell's improvisation was funny behind the wheel of a car, imagine what he's capable of on a pair of ice skates -- then times that by ten.
It's unfortunate, because this is the type of film Adam McKay should have directed. With a little more focus and a solid re-write (by a more experienced writer), Blades of Glory could have been the comedy of the year, or at least close to it. Ferrell's unstoppable when he's working with a director who knows how to tame him, and Heder has potential if he would only take some acting classes. Arnett and Pohler are hilarious when used properly, and Ben Stiller needs to rewind 10 years and re-discover the subtle, quirky humor that helped make him famous. It's quite simple -- this is a film for all the Will Ferrell junkies of the world. If you know how to handle him, know how to love him and know how to laugh with him -- without accidentally overdosing -- then Blades of Glory should definitely satisfy those wicked cravings. And don't worry about the rest of us. We'll just save our money for the next Judd Apatow flick.