Sunday, 17 January 2021

Laughs prove plentiful, sharp for 'Blades of Glory'

BLADES OF GLORY (Rated PG-13)


Soccer coach, NASCAR driver and figure skater are roles that allow Will Ferrell to stamp his hilarious caricature of inflated ego on various sports enterprises that could stand for a little spoofing. Figure skating, with its flamboyance evident in outlandish costumes and exaggerated maneuvers on ice, is particularly ripe for parody, and “Blades of Glory” is the long-awaited jab at an elegant sport that blends grace and athleticism.


Pairs figure skating is even more demanding, since the lifts, jumps and routines require a mix of artistry and strength. With his over-the-top persona in high gear, Ferrell is the right guy to skewer the rarefied universe of competitive skating when he improbably teams up with a former rival for the first male/male figure skating pair.


Witty and richly satirical, “Blades of Glory” is a broad comedy that generates big laughs right from the start and never lets up on its efforts to deliver the comedic goods. Ferrell is certainly outrageous in his antics, but he has a great comic foil in fellow competitor Jon Heder.


Ferrell’s macho, swaggering Chazz Michael Michaels is a rock star on the rink, and a legend in his own mind that he is a god to the female fans. The flipside of the sex-crazed Chazz is Jon Heder’s driven former child prodigy Jimmy MacElroy, a prissy, fastidious and effeminate perfectionist who is basically clueless about life in general.


At the film’s opening, Chazz and Jimmy are archrivals in the men’s final round of the World Championship. When they tie for first place, their longstanding rivalry erupts into a no-holds-barred fight during the awards ceremony. The brawl even sets fire to the sport’s helpless mascot. As a result of the fracas, Chazz and Jimmy are called before the sport’s governing board, stripped of their medals and banned from the sport for life.


Three years elapse, and both men are coping badly with their banishment from the sport. A drunken party machine, Chazz is skating as a costumed evil wizard in a kiddie ice review until bad behavior inevitably gets him fired. Meanwhile, Jimmy can barely manage to hang on to a minimum wage job in a chain sporting goods store.


Jimmy’s biggest fan and former stalker (Nick Swardson) discovers a loophole in the skating manual that would allow Jimmy and Chazz to compete once again if they join forces as the first ever male/male figure skating pair. But first they have to put aside their long-festering hatred of one another.


Cooperation for training and developing routines will be hard to accomplish, even with the help of the tough-minded coach (Craig T. Nelson) who referees their constant squabbling and penchant for pranks. Even if this unlikely pair can put aside their antagonism and personality differences, they are up against a talented brother and sister skating team who resort to dastardly tactics to thwart any competitors. The outlandishly villainous Van Waldenberg siblings, Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild (Amy Poehler), are so conniving and devious that they coerce their younger sister Katie (Jenna Fischer) to seduce both Chazz and Jimmy in order to create a rift between them.


The great fun of seeing Jimmy and Chazz trying to work together is their clash of styles. Jimmy glides across the ice with graceful ease, while Chazz acts like the enforcer in a pro hockey game. There is something ridiculously funny about the awkwardness of an all-male skating routine coming together, especially when Chazz and Jimmy wear absurdly sequined outfits. But they are not alone in bringing amusement to the ice. In an inspired bit of lunacy, Stranz and Fairchild devise a performance in which they act out the relationship between JFK and Marilyn Monroe.


The laughs in “Blades of Glory” skate along often predictable paths, but they are nonetheless plentiful in this absurd farce. Ferrell and Heder make a delightful comedic pair as mismatched skaters. Only Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson come to mind as possible competitors for the same roles.


“Blades of Glory” also has a bit of fun with cameo appearances from real skating stars like Nancy Kerrigan, Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill and Sasha Cohen, while Scott Hamilton does broadcast commentary.


Tim Riley reviews movies for Lake County News.


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