When a film has more than one credited director and multiple writers attached, it can often mean trouble; having too many chefs in the kitchen, and too many warring opinions among them, can easily botch the outcome. That "Blades of Glory" does have two directors (Josh Gordon and Will Speck) and four screenwriters (Craig Cox, Jeff Cox, John Altschuler and David Krinsky) is cause for initial pause, especially considering that among them they have not a single previous cinematic credit. Somehow, some way, these first-timers have rallied together to defy the odds, collaborating on what is, at this late-March date, the funniest movie so far this year.
In many ways doing for professional ice skating what 1999's underrated gem "Drop Dead Gorgeous
" did for beauty pageants, "Blades of Glory" is an acerbic, satirical and richly comic escapadeor should that be ice capade?that garners big laughs right from the start and never, or rarely, eases up. For Will Ferrell, this proudly broad but hardly dumb comedy is exactly what his previous like-minded hits, 2004's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
" and 2006's "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
," wanted so badly to be but failed to attain. For co-star Jon Heder, it is the best he's been since his star-making debut turn in 2004's "Napoleon Dynamite
," making good on the hype that has eluded him in duds like 2006's "The Benchwarmers
" and "School for Scoundrels
." Together, these two actors are at the top of their respective games, meshing well together but getting crucial help from a witty, if conventional, script that compliments their strong points.
Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) is a much-adored, sex-addicted pro ice skater whose biggest adversary in the men's division is cluelessly effeminate, germaphobic Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder). When a tie between them leads to full-on, roll-around-the-floor fight that leaves a mascot in flames, they are banned from ever competing professionally as long as they live. Zoom forward three and a half years, and Jimmy is now working at a crummy ski and skate shop while Chazz has fallen into a drunken stupor that gets him fired from a kiddie ice show. Through a turn of events egged on by a former coach (Craig T. Nelson), a loophole is discovered in which the two of them can return to their careers as long as it couple's ice skating. Putting their differences aside as best as they can, unlikely pair Chazz and Jimmy partner up to once again take the Wintersports Championships in Montreal by storm. For conniving, suddenly-threatened sibling competitors Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Amy Poehler), this is one fight they intend to win, no matter what.
"Blades of Glory" has all the makings of yet another box-office success for Will Ferrell, following the basic formula of many of his previous comedies and adopting an over-the-top persona for the actor that once again plays on his crude sex appeal. The difference this time is that the film in question features far more hits than misses on the joke meter, something that neither the uneven "Anchorman
" nor the combustible "Talladega Nights
" could attest to. Ferrell is simply great as Chazz Michael Michaels, a smarmy operator who is still strangely lovable. This is not a groundbreaking rolehe's played a version of the same character too many times to countbut there's no denying that few people are better at it than him.
Meanwhile, Jon Heder is an ideal comic foil as the blond, permed and perfectly coifed Jimmy MacElroy. Although not yet a veteran and yet to be given a chance to stretch as a performer, Heder has masterful comedic instincts and air-tight timing. Whether childishly sparring or bonding over their slapstick skating routines, he and Ferrell are fun to watch play off each other. Since Jimmy practically has it stamped on his forehead, though, would it have been too much to ask to have his character be written as gay? It's a small point, but one that shouldn't be discounted; giving him a female love interest somehow seems dishonest.
As icy cold villain and villainess Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, real-life married couple Will Arnett (2006's "Let's Go to Prison
") and Amy Poehler (2004's "Mean Girls
") delight in their evilness and aren't above doing whatever it takes to get a laugh. Granted, these parts are one-dimensional, but one can't help but break out in literal hysterics at the sight of Arnett and Poehler performing a graphic dramatization of the relationship between JFK and Marilyn Monroe via their skating routine. Also stealing scenes is the irresistible Jenna Fischer (2006's "Slither
") as Katie, the enslaved younger sister of Stranz and Fairchild who starts to have feelings for Jimmy. Fischer is cutealways a plusbut she is more than that, taking a fairly thankless part and igniting it with a quirky, humorous intelligence.
"Blades of Glory" is frothy and commercial, climaxing, of course, at the Wintersports Championships, but these things don't take away from how entertaining it all is. The type of movie with high rewatchability status, directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck keep the pace moving, the jokes flying, and the editing tight enough that even the ice skating sequences, incorporating a mixture of real actors, stunt people, and special effects, are cohesive and believable. In a movie filled with standout, giggle-inducing moments, keep an eye out for a hilarious scene in which Stranz chases Chazz across a busy city street, through an arena lobby, and up stairs and even an escalator while both are awkwardly wearing their ice skates. "Blades of Glory" is a dynamite sports flick that doesn't take itself too seriously, and is all the better for it.