Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time Capsule Review: "Blades of Glory"

I recently stumbled upon some reviews I did back in college for the La Salle Collegian. In the interest of condensing all of my reviews on this site, I've decided to upload them sporadically throughout the next few weeks. I've chosen not to update them, mostly because I like the concept of reviews as time capsules for how we feel about movies at the time we first see them.

This time out I’m posting a review of Blades of Glory, which I originally reviewed in March of 2007 under the headline “Anchorman 3 Hits Theaters.” At the time, I hadn't yet fully embraced Ferrell’s outlandishness and broad approach. His films tend to get better with repeated viewings (as Blades of Glory does), and I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for the wave length on which he operates (which is why I gave a positive review to the ridiculousness that was Casa de Mi Padre).

Still, even by my new standards of judgment, Blades of Glory remains one of Ferrell’s weaker efforts. Here’s my original review:
Remember when Jon Heder headlined major movies?

After taking a dramatic break with the whimsically charming Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell has returned to familiar stomping grounds with Blades of Glory. While this will likely please pre-teen boys everywhere (and the comedian’s more ardent fans), it isn’t a triumphant return. Blades of Glory may have tonal similarities to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, but it falls short in achieving a similar level of laughs.

That’s not to say the film is bereft of comedy. There’s several humorous gags, one outright hilarious one, and some of the movie’s sillier lines of dialogue are destined to be repeated ad nauseam by adoring fans (i.e. “mindbottling”… trust me, you’ll be hearing it soon enough).

Still, as far as Ferrell comedies go, Blades of Glory isn’t as funny as Talladega Nights, which wasn’t as funny as Anchorman, which wasn’t as funny as Old School. Coincidentally, each film has also gotten more cartoonish than the last, to the extent that they are now beginning to resemble extended SNL skits. That’s fine if the film’s as funny as Anchorman, but this film’s humor is far too scattershot to be so broadly drawn. Blades of Glory’s premise is simple enough: arch rivals Chazz (Ferrell) and Jimmy (Jon Heder), the two hottest competitors in men’s ice skating, are banned from singles skating due to a petty fight that tarnished the sport’s image. Several years later they are forced to put their differences aside and skate in the couples category in the hopes of another chance at a gold medal.

Joining forces proves difficult for the two men, as they are as mismatched as one might expect for a film of this ilk. Chazz is basically Ferrell’s patented egotistical/dumb macho man, but with a twist (he’s a sex addict), while Jimmy is a girly, prudish man-child. Complicating things further are an odd brother and sister skating duo, Franz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), who have ruled supreme in couples skating for quite some time and will stoop to any low to keep Chazz and Jimmy from stealing their limelight.

Throw in a few awkward skating routines for the two duos, several cameos (from the likes of skating legends and a frat packer) and a tacked on romance between Jimmy and Katie (Jenna Fischer), Franz and Fairchild’s baby sister, and you’ve got the movie.

To his credit, Ferrell does his best to keep the film from veering too far onto thin ice. He has fun with the sex addict angle and adds mightily to some ho-hum jokes with great line readings. Still, the role’s a total caricature, so I wouldn’t call it a stretch or anything to rave about. Heder gets far fewer laughs than his partner, but he manages to more or less overcome his monotonous persona to give a solid performance as Jimmy.

Arnett and Poehler, who are married in real life, manage to steal every scene they’re in with their morbid, off-the-wall deliveries and expressions. Meanwhile, Craig T. Nelson, William Fichtner and Nick Swardson provide able support, while Fischer essentially plays a weirder, sexier version of her Pam Beesly character from The Office (no complaining here, but one wishes she had more to do).

In the end, the film is plagued by the same bug that infects many of Ferrell’s comedies — there’s no rooting interest. No character or relationship is developed enough to garner much attention, and so in the end, there’s not much to care about. Furthermore, with the exception of the sex addict material and a hysterically violent video clip, there isn’t much worthwhile comedy either. C-