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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blades of Glory

Three words for Blades of Glory. Funny. Funny. Funny. No. Wait. Go See It. There. That’s three.

Oh, wait. Here are four: Funniest movie this year.

Seriously. I never thought I’d be saying that. I figured I would enjoy
Blades of Glory about as much as I would drinking battery acid and cabbage juice. I expected a movie about figure skating ~ male figure skating ~ starring Will Farrell (
Stranger Than Fiction) had to be chock full of dumb and even dumber homophobic jokes until the movie itself reeked worse than Boat Trip as the most offensive-to-gays film ever released as a mainstream “comedy.” Boy was I wrong.

Instead of taking the easy route with a topic so ripe for that kind of ridicule, Farrell and his cinematic partner Jon Heder (
School for Scoundrels) merely skate past any reference to the male-male pairing and focus their comedy on the odd coupling of these two characters who are thrown together by their own circumstance and forced to become friends in order to fulfill a common dream.

The plot is simple enough. Chazz Michael Michaels (Farrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Heder) are the best male skaters in the world, Olympic Champions sharing a gold medal until their own rivalry starts them brawling on the winner’s podium in front of a worldwide television audience. This act gets them stripped of their titles, medals, and permission to ever skate again in the world of men’s figure skating.

Three-and-a-half years pass and life has not been good to either man when their paths cross once again, and, history repeating itself, the duo fights once more, this time airing on news programs across the country thanks to amateur footage caught on tape. MacElroy’s old coach (ironically
called only “Coach” and played by tv’s “Coach” star Craig T. Nelson) sees the style and form of the two combatants as he replays the tape in slow motion and realizes that these guys could make a good team if only they didn’t hate each other. It’s actually creepy/funny stalker Hector (Nick Swardson; Reno 911! Miami) who presents his stalkee, Jimmy, with the news that according to the US Figure Skating Rules Handbook there is a loophole that would allow for Jimmy and Michaels to skate again ~ since there is no regulation denying them the opportunity to enter competition as a couple. He offers this encouraging advice with the caveat that Jimmy has to get back out there and skate again as if it is vitally important because “I’m still going to eat you one day” and, apparently, no one wants to eat a has been.

From this point, Blades of Glory skates into a blend of “Dr. Phil on Ice” and a satirical episode of almost any daytime drama. The premier competing couple, brother and sister act Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (real life husband and wife Will Arnett; RV, and Amy Poehler; tv’s “Saturday Night Live”) work feverishly to sabotage the guys from winning the crucial Olympics qualifying competition in Montreal, even enlisting their poor, put-upon little sister Katie (Jenna Fischer; tv’s “The Office” ) to help by playing upon her guilt, reminding her over and over again that their parents died in a car accident all because they were taking her to a skating lesson when she was a kid. But how far will Katie go, considering she has developed some very real feelings for the innocent and naïve MacElroy. Does young love trump the supposed tears of a dead daddy somewhere?

The idea of pairing Farrell as skating's resident bad boy rebel with Heder as an effeminate narcissist could have blown up in co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s faces considering Ferrell’s intensely loud and animated personality on-screen, but they do an excellent job of keeping him just on the cusp of “too much” without letting him swallow up the production. Heder is a surprise though. He does a great job, completely unaware of his own “tendencies” and his MacElroy comes off as a truly sincere and good soul (despite his arrogant flaws). Considering Gordon and Speck had no feature film experience before this, they have made an impressive debut, but, then again, they are the duo responsible for giving the world Geico’s “gecko” and “cavemen”. Those alone are quite the achievements.

Blades of Glory features a great crop of cameos by some of skating’s best. Look for Nancy Kerrigan to fall victim to Chazz Michael Michael’s sexual addiction, but also on board are Brian Boitano, Sasha Cohen, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, and Scott Hamilton amongst others. Luke Wilson also brings quite a laugh when he shows up in a very specific role that seems tailor made more for his brother Owen than him, but it is still a surprise worth seeing. And speaking of that sexual addiction be sure to keep an eye on the background of the scene when Chazz and another character leave a Sexual Addicts Anonymous meeting and take a brief stroll while talking about what they have just experienced inside. Sometimes what happens without words is funnier than the dialogue itself.

Kudos has to go to Julie Weiss, who created the elaborate skating costumes for the stars. She takes just enough liberty with the concept of “over the top” to keep it close but not overdone. Heder’s flamboyant duds, especially, are enough to make you understand why some of the less well-read spectators in the stands make the mistake of thinking he is a she. Of course his golden “Sandy Duncan” hair-don’t (compliments of key hair stylist Mary Ann Valdes) doesn’t help with that situation. I only wish my do looked half that good when I went to play Bingo! I swear, with the right eye shadow, Heder could play a young Betty White.

The jokes are fast and furious in
Blades of Glory. Think
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby but with an urban touch instead of pure country. There may be no references to NASCAR, but what is included is pure gold. Farrell and Heder play off one another with the precision of a Lemmon and Matthau (The Odd Couple) in their prime. Poehler and Arnett are live action versions of Boris and Natasha, Bullwinkle J. Moose’s old nemeses. Together, this foursome brings more enjoyment to the Essex Cinemas than it has seen since those dancing penguins visited last November. Definitely a winner for all involved and most of all for the audience! Four more words: Go See It Now!

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