What do you get when you mix the swagger and slapstick of Will Ferrell with the elegance and artistry of
professional figure skating? Talladega in Tights? Skating and Screaming? No, it's "Blades of Glory," a sports
comedy parodying the pageantry of professional figure skating. After two rival Olympic skaters, Chazz Michael
Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy, are stripped of their gold medals and banned from the sport, they discover a slight
technicality in the rulebook that allows them to compete again - as the first male/male figure skating pair in
history. Like most spoofs, "Blades of Glory" is proficient at parody. And it does its best to honor the athletes
who make it their profession, adding cameos from Sasha Cohen, Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, and more. But apart
from the concept and a handful of inside jokes, the film misses its opportunity to break away from the technical
routine, earning solid marks, but not enough for the awards stand.
World championship figure skating requires a unique blend of athleticism and choreography. And at this year's
ultimate spectacle, there are only two that fit the bill: Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy. Both with
completely different styles. Michaels is the obnoxious rock star, all about sex and showmanship while MacElroy is
the quiet technician, all about grace and artful sophistication. The end result is a tie (reminiscent of the 2002
Olympic Winter Games scandal), whereby each is awarded a gold medal. But because of the intense hatred for one
another, a fight breaks out at the podium. And in the aftermath, the two are brought in front of the figure skating
commission, stripped of their medals, and banned from the sport for life.
Three and a half years removed from the sport, both Chazz and Jimmy are still struggling to deal with their
lives devoid of competitive figure skating. Both have found meaningless work - Jimmy at a sporting goods store
and Chazz at a magical ice show called "The Grublets." But each presents a series of setbacks instigated by
their own personal idiosyncrasies - Jimmy's perfectionist ways and Chazz's descent into public drunkenness.
Ironically, their saving grace comes from one of Jimmy's former stalkers, named Hector. Hector tells of a
skating loophole, one that does not prevent those banned from re-entering the sport as a figure skating
pair. However, to do so, both Chazz and Jimmy must find a way to put their differences aside and learn to
skate as one. Only then will they be able to achieve their gold medal aspirations, all the while making
history as the first male/male figure skating pair to compete at the World Championships.
These days, no sport seems safe from Will Ferrell's shenanigans. In "Kicking & Screaming," he poked fun of the
obsessive parent/coach in youth soccer. In "Talladega Nights," he perfected the win at all costs NASCAR mantra - "if
you ain't first, you're last." And coming soon, he'll star in "Semi Pro," where he'll put on his Chuck Taylor's and
ready his jump shot for a spoof of semi and professional basketball.
What makes Ferrell so successful as a comedian is the use of his awkward size in physical humor and his ability to
channel his inner child and go for broke. Not to mention, baring the Frank the Tank beer belly. Whether you like his
style or not, you have to respect his best efforts. In "Blades of Glory," Ferrell exaggerates the skating style of
Elvis Stojko while adding his own quirks to create Chazz Michael Michaels, "an ice devouring sex machine?forged in the
hell fires of Motown." At times, his performance is uncomfortably over-the-top; other times, just plain silly. And
then there are those moments of pure comic gold like the escape sequence outside of Montreal's Olympic Park that pits
Michaels against Stranz Van Waldenberg.
Ferrell's comedy is offset by Jon Heder, whose character Jimmy MacElroy is the polar opposite of Michaels. He's
effeminate, introverted, and geeky. Think "Napoleon Dynamite" on ice. MacElroy's character is undoubtedly based on
that of Johnny Weir, who coincidentally wore a swan outfit for the 2004 Winter Olympics that resembled MacElroy's
peacock, down to the beaks of the birds. But caricatures aside, it's the chemistry between Ferrell and Heder that's
special - different personalities and styles combined with physical comedy - both men are over six feet tall and doing
jumps, spins, and lifts.
Watching the skating routines between the two is worth the price of admission. Because while each is quite capable of
zinging one-liners at each other like "I see you still look like a fifteen year old girl, but not hot." Or "You smell
like aftershave and taco meat!" Neither does anything to stretch their comedic chops.
Certainly, the film has many funny moments, especially while lampooning the figure skating world with countless
cameos, costumes, and characters. But the majority are standalone, without context. This, of course, makes "Blades
of Glory" seem like an elongated comedy sketch, without any depth or development. Directed by Will Speck and Josh
Gordon, who earned their reputation based on the Geico commercials about one-dimensional cavemen, "Blades of Glory"
delivers in much the same vain. The characters are unable to break from their spoofed up shells to grow and mature
in unique ways. And the story lacks the cohesion and creativeness to go beyond the idiosyncratic stereotypes it sets up.
Unlike "Talladega Night's" Ricky Bobby, who was a funny caricature with strengths and weaknesses that readily matured
as the film wore on, neither Michaels nor MacElroy are given that kind of richness. Or they are given it, but nothing
is done about it as Michael's sex addiction is never really explained and MacElroy's orphaned childhood is never
revisited. Because of this, it's hard to know what's at stake, why the championship is important, and what it really
means to each involved other than another opportunity to poke fun of the skating community.
Championship figure skating is a world all to it's own. It's own sense of style, rules, and celebrity, which
lends itself perfectly to outlandish comedy. In "Blades of Glory," the filmmakers and actors understand how
to poke fun by embellishing the costumes, the behind the scenes drama, the fantasy, the broadcast spectacle,
and the fan base. But by ignoring the characters themselves, they fail to achieve the ultimate glory - that
which goes beyond the simple and forgettable spoof and becomes a classic sports legend.