“Blades of Glory” presents a fascinating conundrum for co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck: How does one effectively spoof a sport that already functions as an aggressive parody of itself?
It’s like doing an impersonation of Richard Simmons. Isn’t the genuine article always funnier?
It is, unless the cast is led by Will Ferrell, a comic actor who’s made a career of adding fire to flames. And I have to admit, watching the star of “Old School” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” ham it up as a sequined, booze-swilling figure skater proves to be a raucous, if somewhat mind-numbing, good time. Nobody takes a joke too far like Hollywood’s king of comical flab.
The movie starts out like an all-male version of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan flap. Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) is the chaste prince of male figure skating, a feathered diva with a Svengali manager/father (William Fichtner) and a gold medal routine that includes pulling a dove out of his tights.
Jimmy’s nemesis is Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell), a swaggering, womanizing tornado of macho overcompensation who tells Jimmy to “step aside, home school” before matching the lad’s near-perfect routine at the 2002 Wintersport Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Sadly, the rivalry gets violent on the podium, spilling onto the ice and causing the Wintersport mascot to burst into flames. Chazz and Jimmy are subsequently stripped of their medals and banned from men’s figure skating for life.
Fast-forward three years. Chazz is lost in an alcoholic haze, emerging only to perform for kids in a traveling ice show. Jimmy is a clerk at a skate shop. What could bring these two sodden souls together and help them reclaim their lost glory? Why, a loophole, by which the two men can compete together as a pairs team.
Their re-emergence onto the competitive skating scene is viewed with hostility and resentment by the world’s reigning pairs champions, siblings Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (real-life spouses Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), who promptly “go Tonya Harding” on their rivals.
Obviously, two men as a skating team has potential to create sexual discomfort for an audience. First-time directors Gordon and Speck manage to make light of the hombre-on-hombre energy without overplaying it. “Blades of Glory” is a story of friendship with blubbering platitudes about “brotherhood” and some outrageously funny scenes of physical comedy. And, oh yes, some absolutely flaming outfits. But that goes without saying.