Blades Of Glory Review
In 2002 and at the World Winter Sport Games in Stockholm, the men's singles skating competition is coming down to a head-to-head between the two rival Americans Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder). MacElroy is the housewife's favourite, technically perfect with a dazzling smile and Farrah Fawcett blond curls and scores an almost perfect set of results from the judges. Chazz Michael Michaels is adored by the younger members of the audience. A sex addict, perennially clad in leather and with a tendency to grab his crotch during his performance, Michaels' routine is so hot that flames leap out from his hands. To the surprise of both MacElroy and Michaels, they tie for the gold and, to their discomfort, stand side-by-side on the podium. That discomfort turns to anger and, eventually, to a fist fight that spills off the podium and onto the ice. Their gold medals are rescinded, the Winter Sports board strips them of their titles and they are banned from the sport, not for a year or two but for the rest of their lives!
Almost four years later and as the 2006 Winter Sports competition rolls around again, Chazz is playing an evil wizard in a children's fantasy-show-on-ice while Jimmy is working in a sports superstore. Neither is happy. Jimmy's high standards don't sit well with the parents of precocious young skaters and spends most of his days in the stock room while Chazz gets drunk, staggers about the ice, picks fights with the goblins and throws up into his mask. Again, parents are unhappy at the sound of a man vomiting onto his microphone. But then Hector, Jimmy's number one fan, tells him there's a way back into the competition even with a lifetime ban...pairs skating. Jimmy, though, doesn't know of anyone who's looking for a skating partner. Luckily, his coach (Craig T Nelson) does but when he shows up with Chazz Michael Michaels, neither one can believe what he's suggesting. Apparently there's nothing in the rules that says two men can't skate together in pairs and so the coach begins them on the road to the Winter Sports Championships with a technique he calls the Iron Lotus...a move that will, more than likely, end in Michae's being beheaded on the ice.
Now in my thirties, I'm rather content in my skin and with that of others. As, I would imagine, are most men. Blades Of Glory is, however, a film that makes much of the discomfort felt when one man is in close proximity to another, often when one is staring at or has their hand placed on the groin of the other. The key skating scene has them taking to the ice in costumes of fire and ice, sliding across the rink to bump groins together, for Michaels to hold McElroy aloft supported only by his crotch and for McElroy to be so close to Michael's gusset as to know whether he's circumcised or not. If such a thing has you squirming in discomfort even in the reading of it, there will be much in Blades Of Glory to enjoy with it having all of the yuck that comes with the suggestion of accidental, not to mention apparently unwelcome, homosexual encounters in mainstream comedy.
One suspects that most of the audience for Blades Of Glory are content if not actually overjoyed at this turn of comedy. Given how many laughs there are to be had at ice skating with or without the involvement of Ben Stiller (who acts as producer), Will Ferrell, John Heder and the husband-and-wife team of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, Blades Of Glory has this audience firmly in mind when it dresses Heder and Ferrell like a pair of strays from Starlight Express has them swooping around the ice and into one another's arms. Actually, it's rather touching the more they become friends with the romance between Heder and Jenna Fischer becoming something of a distraction between the pairs skaters, so much so that the romance in the film is something of disappointment given that it's not Heder and Ferrell who step off the ice together.
There are, though, plenty of laughs to be had in Blades Of Glory aside from the sight of Heder and Ferrell skating together. Poehler and Arnett are good as determined brother-and-sister skating pairs (and lovers) but the lines they've been given fall some way short of those handed to Ferrell and Heder. Only their Marilyn Monroe and JFK ice skating routine suggests they've been given material on a par with Heder and Ferrell but, even then, we see them step onto the ice and off it again complete with Poehler spilling a bottle of pills around her but we miss the actual performance. And that is one of the problems with Blades Of Glory. For all that there's a strong cast, it's only when Heder and Ferrell are on the screen that Blades Of Glory is funny. There's a standout scene in sex therapy that has everything Ferrell says sounding like the plot of a dreadful Danish soft porn movie but which has the all the other sex addicts clasping their thighs in near ecstasy. The behind-the-Iron-Curtain footage of the Iron Lotus is marvellous as are the follow-up efforts of Ferrell to perfect the move but, once again, it's Ferrell and Heder that make it so. Ferrell and Arnett have a chase scene late in the film but, again, Ferrell is funny and Arnett just, well, kind of follows along looking mean. As for Jenna Fischer, though she gives good support to the main cast, her one moment of comedy comes when she's wearing a bustier and having her right breast squeezed by Ferrell.
But that may mean nothing if you actually like John Heder and Will Ferrell, who step up and take down their performances, respectively, for Blades Of Glory, finding something of a match in their on-the-ice moves as well as skating partners. For this viewer, that wasn't quite enough but I would imagine that there are plenty for whom the sight of Will Ferrell looking down at John Heder's lycra-d groin is as funny as the movies get.
Blades Of Glory has enjoyed a reasonable transfer from Dreamworks but not a great one, being one that has very little print damage but which doesn't offer very much clarity. Looking carefully at the picture in a couple of key scenes, including the various ice skating championships and Chazz and Jimmy's Rocky-styled training regimes, the image is soft with there being little to no detail in the faces of the cast. Granted, Will Ferrell looks a little too podgy to have very much character in his face and John Heder looks airbrushed even in real life but there ought to be much more detail than is present here.
Another criticism is the rather bland colours of the disc, which is something of a problem when some of the comedy is based on the outrageous design of the costumes. Comparing the film to the stills in the Photo Gallery in amongst the bonus material, the DVD should present Blades Of Glory to look richer than it does here but whether it be the coolness of the ice or, much more likely, only an average transfer, the film doesn't look as impressive as the stills suggest it should do.
The DD5.1 track is also fine but makes only occasional use of the rear channels and precious little of the subwoofer. Dialogue is clear and the entire film sounds well-packaged but there's nothing, not even in the swoops, falls and spins on the ice, to suggest that a great deal of care was paid to making this a memorable DVD release. Finally, there are range of subtitles including Engish.
Return To Glory...Making Of Blades (14m13s): Except it's really nothing of the sort. Blades Of Glory, whatever else it is, isn't the kind of film that will inspire even its greatest fans to want to know anything about how it was actually made. Y'know...with cameras and stuff. Instead, this is more a quick behind-the-scenes look at how the film began production but there isn't, continuing to make assumptions about the audience for this film, quite enough of the actors and far too much of the producers, who, Ben Stiller aside, aren't funny enough for a bonus feature on a comedy DVD.
Celebrities On Thin Ice (5m51s): It sounds like something ITV would have offered during primetime on a Saturday night - indeed, I think they might already have done so - but with the celebrities here being actors Will Ferrell, John Heder and acting couple Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, all of whom are seen practicing on the ice prior to the start of shooting. Want to see how Ferrell developed that sexy skating thing - ice skating not actually being at all sexy - then this is your feature.
Cooler Than Ice...The Super Sexy Costumes Of Skating (4m28s): At no point, with the possible exception of Arnett and Poehler's Marilyn Monroe and JFK routine complete will bottles of pills, do the costumes in Blades Of Glory ever actually cross over into parody. Ice skating is just a difficult sport to make ridiculous and the costumes are one of those aspects of the production in which there's little to no comedy value. However, the Tron-styled outfits worn by Ferrell and Heder are a highlight...which may be more to do with Tron than Blades Of Glory.
Arnett & Poehler - A Family Affair (5m37s): Yes, they really are married although, unlike in Blades Of Glory, they're not actually brother and sister. There's a good many attempts at jokes in this but it may have been that I was already drunk at this point but I started to get the fear whilst listening to them, thinking they weren't so much funny as chattering surreally in such a manner as to make me think I was hallucinating. Not helped by Poehler being dressed as Marilyn Monroe...or watching it again sober.
20 Questions With Scott Hamilton (4m49s): He's a real ice skater! Who looks like a bald Mark Hamill but who, showing more appreciation for comedy than many of the other participants in these bonus features, shows good humour in the bizarre questions he's asked in this feature.
Hector - Portait Of A Psychofan (3m16s): Remaining in character and scraping the barrel of what one might ever expect from this DVD, Nick Swardson steps over the line between what is funny (as he is in the film) to what is faintly disturbing (as he is here).
Deleted Scenes (8m47s): And these are pretty good, particularly for giving us a little more backstory with Chazz telling Jimmy how they actually met when they were four and how he ruins Jimmy's hair brush with a good pubic scratching. It gets better with a Baileys-and-keytar singing of Blades Of Glory, a scene that should have remained in the film.
Blades Of Glory Music Video (4m30s): Not the Jimmy and Chazz singalong from the Deleted Scenes but a dreadful song by Bo Bice who ought to have kept the keytar and not the Chad Kroeger influences.
Gag Reel (2m06s): No funnier than it is on any other release.
Alternate Takes (8m19s): This might be better but for taking all of these alternate takes out of context so instead of getting the sex therapy classes and Ferrell's ad-libs within the context of the scene, where it would be funny, we get a dozen snippets from various stories that aren't, on the their, that great. Every other alternate take is presented in the same format with gags that would have been funny had there been some writing around them but, "...and his Bengal tiger!" doesn't really work on its own.
Moviefone Unscripted (9m56s): Will Ferrell, Will Arnett and John Heder are together for this question-and-answer session that, given what Ferrell says about digital medium, must have originated online. Together, they answer questions sent in via email by viewers but other than a rant by Ferrell against Stomp and what the Lord Of The Rings tattoo might be, there aren't a great many laughs.
Finally, there is a set of three MTV Interstitials (1m41s) and a Photo Gallery.