In his quest to make fun of every sport on the planet, Will Ferrell sets his sights on the figure-skating arena and, in Blades of Glory, blows its traditions - and pretensions - sky high.
It's hard to deny the beauty and athleticism of figure skating but, to an outsider, the differences among moves such as the salchow, the axel, the toe loop, and the camel can be baffling, and the scoring is totally arcane.
Blades of Glory skewers every element of the sport, from the fans to the costumes to the behind-the-scenes bickering, with such over-the-top glee and the complicity of its big names (Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming, Brian Boitano, and Nancy Kerrigan make cameos) that the laughs come often and easy.
Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, skating's outlaw and a tsunami of swagger (his words), all chest hair and five-o'clock shadow. His biggest rival is Jimmy MacElroy, sweetly effeminate in his Spandex and spangles and fluffy blond tresses.
Sportscasters Scott Hamilton and Jim Lampley, whose deadpan hushed analysis of the film's nonsensical skating routines is a satire all of its own, describe them thusly:
Jimmy: "There are very few women in this sport who skate with this kind of beauty."
Chazz: "He's captured this arena like a stack of Euro-porn."
When the bitter rivals tie during a major competition, then get in a smackdown on the medal stand, embarrassing the skating community, they are banned from their sport forever.
Chazz takes a job portraying an evil wizard in a children's ice show. Jimmy's fall from glory lands him a clerking job in a winter-sports shop.
It takes Hector, Jimmy's most obsessive fan (Jimmy has a restraining order against him), to figure out that a loophole in the rules will allow Jimmy to skate in the pairs competition. It takes Jimmy's former coach (Craig T. Nelson, having fun with his Coach role) to figure out that Jimmy's perfect partner would be Chazz.
They aren't sold on the idea, but both want to get back into the competitive arena, and in the process of bonding into a true partnership, Blades of Glory sends up every skating movie I can think of, from Miracle to The Cutting Edge.
There are, of course, subplots, the main one of which involves the champion pairs skaters and vaguely incestuous siblings Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), who aren't about to cede their gold medals to a pair of male upstarts.
Some of Blades of Glory doesn't work. Ferrell's outrageousness gets tiresome, a few scenes are gross and stomach-turning, and the pace shifts from frenetic to numbingly slow and back again in an instant. The two directors and a committee of writers might account for the lack of cohesiveness in pace and story.
But many more sequences do work, ranging from rehearsals in a choreographer's studio, to a gansta-rap skating routine, complete with sequined tattoos and fake gold teeth, to a priceless, laugh-until-it-hurts video of some dangerous skating moves that Coach wants Jimmy and Chazz to try.
There is absolutely nothing of social value in Blades of Glory, no logic during the film, no lesson at the end. But for Ferrell fans and skating fans alike, it is rude, crude, and lots of fun.
Contact Nanciann Cherry at: email@example.com or 419-724-6130.