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April 3, 2007

Movie Review – Blades of Glory (2007)

by RISHI AGRAWAL

Blades of Glory 040307

I have never been one to draw arbitrary distinctions between art and entertainment. Sure, the paperback romance novel with Fabio on the cover might have little artistic value, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it has no artistic value. If we simply look at Blades of Glory as pure entertainment, then it is a fun movie. But it presents an interesting case. What do you do with a film with major structural difficulties? A lot of people would say that the only criteria you should use to judge a comedy is its humorous content. But I refuse to do that. It is possible to make a funny comedy with good acting, interesting characters and a worthwhile plot, and I don’t think that we should laud a film with such deficiencies, no matter how funny it is. <

The film concerns two male figure skaters at the top of their game: Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame). After a brutal knock-down fight, they get banned from men’s figure skating, but find a loophole in the rules that allows them to compete in pairs skating. They try to put aside their differences to become the first all-male pairs figure skating team. The promising cast includes Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as a rival figure skating team with Jenna Fischer as their subjugated sister (and love interest for Jimmy). Craig T. Nelson rounds out the cast as Chazz and Jimmy’s coach.

I should probably point out that if all you care about are laughs, the movie is very funny. Ferrell plays that same character he does in most of his films: a machismo mix of arrogance and naiveté. But he has gotten very good at playing this character and delivers a lot of great lines. Ferrell’s gift for physical comedy really shows on the ice, and the visual effects team on this movie should be especially commended for their realistic and occasionally beautiful figure skating sequences. Although a minor part of the film, there are some cameos by real-life figure skaters that are priceless moments in the film. So it is not as if I am humorless and could not appreciate Ferrell’s brand of comedy. I was laughing out loud just as much as my movie companion, who is a die-hard Ferrell fan.

Unfortunately, the defects of the film are numerous. Heder is underutilized and plays the straight man to Ferrell’s as-always over-the-top performance. Heder seems somewhat directionless in this film as he barks out his lines as if he is trying to channel Napoleon Dynamite without the charisma. Even Fischer, who is excellent in The Office seems to be reading off of a cue card. In a breath of fresh air for the film, Arnett and Poehler should be commended for their performance as a brother-sister figure skating team, with a Brady Bunch meets Tanya Harding mentality.

The plot of the movie is nothing new, and falls into fairly standard sports movie conventions. In fact, there seem to be long stretches in the film where we are confronted with the plot when we are simply waiting for the next laugh to occur. Funny costumes and celebrity cameos only go so far. For the film to hold my interest, I want a strong story behind the comedy.

One last point I wanted to address was the fact that this film had some homophobic moments, but they did not offend me as much as the moments in Wild Hogs. In Blades of Glory, Chazz and Jimmy are sometimes placed in physically awkward situations, but they work through them without caring what the audience thinks. They do not feel the need to defend themselves or their sexuality. In Wild Hogs, it is as if the scriptwriters are telling us that the worst thing in the world is to have someone think you are gay when you aren’t, while in Blades of Glory, they leave the moments open to interpretation.

If you want to compare this film to other Will Ferrell comedies, I think it is on par with Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby but weaker than Old School or Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy. If you are a Ferrell fan, I don’t think you will be disappointed by this film. However, if you haven’t been impressed by Ferrell in the past, then he will do nothing to change your mind with this film.

2 1/2 stars


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