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"BLADES OF GLORY"
(2007) (Will Ferrell, Jon Heder) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: After being banned for life from the sport, two former ice skating rivals join forces as the first male-male pairs team in hopes of skating competitively again.
PLOT:
Chazz Michael Michaels (WILL FERRELL) and Jimmy MacElroy (JON HEDER) couldn't be more different from one another, but both are at the top of their game in the world of competitive ice skating. A self-proclaimed sex addict, Chazz is all brash ego, while Jimmy -- adopted at a young age and then trained to excellence by billionaire Darren MacElroy (WILLIAM FICHTNER) -- is a pretty boy, drawing legions of fans such as stalker Hector (NICK SWARDSON). When the two end up sharing a gold medal and thus get into a fight over, it, they're banned from the sport forever.

Several years later, they're both washed up has-beens, but Hector hasn't given up hope with Jimmy. Finding a loophole in the rules, he informs Jimmy that the ban only pertains to male singles competition, not pairs. Accordingly, Jimmy approaches his former coach (CRAIG T. NELSON) who reluctantly signs on -- along with choreographer Jesse (ROMANY MALCO) -- and soon Jimmy and Chazz are skating again, this time as a team.

That doesn't sit well with current pairs champions, siblings Stranz (WILL ARNETT) and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (AMY POEHLER), who coerce their younger sister Katie (JENNA FISCHER) into trying to sabotage the first male-male pairing in the sport. From that point on, Chazz and Jimmy must deal with that as try to put their differences aside and work together as a team.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
It's common nowadays for people or promoters to state that something is worth the price of admission alone. Whether that's true or not obviously depends on what sort of dollar figures we're talking about (a million clams to see Michael Jordan play again), as well as what sets that one thing apart from the rest of the offering (the Mona Lisa among a collection of Dogs Playing Poker prints), and if such an assessment will be universally accepted (a miracle for a buck) or only apply to a certain audience segment (a rare Pokemon card at a collectors show).

It's hard to gauge how moviegoers (and later home video renters and buyers) will react to the following, but in my book, there's a scene late in "Blades of Glory" that truly is worth the price of admission alone. Of course, I got in free as a being a member of the reviewing press. Yet, even if I had laid down my Alex Hamilton and taken out a loan to buy a large tub of popcorn and soda, I think I still would have had the same reaction to what's arguably one of the more inspired bits of physical comedy to hit cinemas in quite a while.

Longtime readers might be shocked at that assessment considering my generally cool reaction to the zany comedies that have turned Will Ferrell into a reliably bankable star (that is, as long as he remains in that particular genre). And I went into our screening anticipating hating or at least barely tolerating the inanity that was surely to follow.

After all, it's yet another film where the "SNL" alumnus plays a boastful, egotistical and slightly dimwitted man-child character, and "Napoleon Dynamite's" Jon Heder also stars as his ice skating rival. Yes, you read that last part right, it's a spoof of sorts about a sport where men (and women) appear in skintight, often flamboyantly flashy outfits and glide, jump and spin across the ice, where commentators enthusiastically respond to whatever amazing physical feat (triple toe loop, triple salchow, etc.) they've just witnessed.

Accordingly, I figured it would be a one-note, and probably homophobic comedy featuring Ferrell doing what he does "best." For much of the film, it's exactly that, although the homophobia is downplayed quite a bit in a sort of wink-wink fashion that plays with the sexuality notion, but never gets mean with it.

Yet, for all of that, its repetitiveness, and the many jokes that either didn't work or just didn't play well to yours truly, the film -- penned by Jeff Cox & Craig Cox -- steps up to the plate late in the going and, to continue with the mixed sports metaphors, knocks one clear out of the ice rink.

The setup is quite simple and seemingly headed for another bit of dumbed-down goofiness. Having teamed up with Heder's character to be the first male-male pairs figure skating "couple," Ferrell has run afoul of Will Arnett. He plays one half of a sibling-based pairs couple (the other being his real-life wife and another "SNL" cast member, Amy Poehler) that doesn't appreciate the newfound competition and have predictably tried to sabotage them.

Now, with time running out, Ferrell and Arnett's characters are in a foot chase -- on ice skates -- back toward the auditorium hosting the championship. However, when they arrive at the building and thus run out of winter outside ice, they must contend with trying to "run" on those sharp blades sans those little plastic protective sheaths that allow such non-ice movement.

Accordingly, the pursuit continues, albeit gingerly since it's a delicate balancing act of running without breaking one's ankles. That might not sound like much as written. However, the way in which first-time feature directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck stage the sequence and the ability of the actors to pull it off results in a fabulously funny sequence that had our preview audience in stitches.

Surprisingly, other parts of the film had the same, if somewhat diminished effect on me, including a scene featuring a bad encounter with an ice skate (in a completely unexpected and hilarious if comically gory bit), another featuring a crossbow and a costumed mascot, and several others.

Considering the moments that don't work and the fact that they outnumber the ones that do, you may wonder if the successful ones make this a great or even just good comedy. The answer is not really, but they certainly generate some big and rather unexpected laughs. "Blades of Glory" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed March 27, 2007 / Posted March 30, 2007


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