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The thrill of victory: Heder and Ferrell in Blades of Glory.

Manly Men

By Laura Leon

Blades of Glory

Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon

The sight of a near-naked Will Ferrell, hairy stomach bulging over a towel, might be a bit much, especially on an empty stomach. However, it’s one of the funniest sight gags in Blades of Glory, a movie that pokes the same kind of fun at skating as Ferrell’s Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby did at NASCAR racing. It also is one of the few jokes that supports the movie’s underlying theme, which is the question of true masculinity. Ferrell’s character, the sex-addicted, flamboyantly he-man Chazz Michael Michaels, oozes cheesy machismo, what with his ice routines set to Billy Squire’s “The Stroke” and his blatant come-ons to the female judges. Next to him, Chazz’s arch nemesis and chief competitor, Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), seems, well, poofy. Known for his trademark “peacock” move, the robotic MacElroy masters routines that are textbook perfect and full of artistry.

When Michaels and MacElroy tie for gold at the World Wintersport Games, their rivalry bubbles over, resulting in a free-for-all on the podium and their ban for life from the sport. Screenwriters Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky have fun with the concept of what happens to the skating world’s rejects, in this case most notably with a freakish children’s ice show, but bring the story back to the world of competition with the discovery by one of Jimmy’s more fanatic fans that the official rules do not preclude Michaels and MacElroy from skating in a different division—in this case, pairs. With coach (Craig T. Nelson) and choreographer in tow, the two enemies join forces to conquer the competition—namely, the sibling team of Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild (Amy Poehler) Van Waldenberg. In the process, they alternately disgust, confuse and enchant the skating world with their new vision of skill and artistry.

Blades of Glory works best when it sticks to the ice, although too much is made of the tricky business of having to grab another man’s crotch in order to do a particular lift. Choreographer Sarah Kawahara, aided no doubt by some adept camerawork and computer generation, makes Ferrell, Heder, Arnett and Poehler ap pear to be doing much more than pretending. Unfortunately, what could have been one of the film’s highlights, the Van Wal denbergs’ take on the forbidden dalliance of JFK and Marilyn Monroe, complete with pill popping and skirt lifting, is seen just in glimpses.

A side plot involving the brow-beaten youngest Van Waldenberg, Katie (Jenna Fischer), being romanced by Jimmy is beside the point, especially when you consider that both Fischer and Heder work best when playing off the antics of others. The movie could have been a lot meaner—and could have thrown out by half the number of sex and boner jokes—and still retained its PG-13 status, but it does provide the surreal pleasure of hearing former champion-turned TV commentator Scott Hamilton describing Michaels and MacElroy’s performance. Using much the same phrases one hears when watching any skating event on TV, Hamilton gleefully pricks holes in the idea that there is really one standard of perfection, be it technical execution or artistry. You can’t help but wonder if he’s actually in on the joke, or completely unaware.

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