Ice men

Blades of Glory

The ice skating conga line could never quite take off.

The ice skating conga line could never quite take off.

Rated 3.0

I’ve always hated watching figure skating. It makes me anxious and gives me a stomachache. The anticipation of somebody falling down during a damn jump drives me nuts and makes me nervous. It’s some sort of phobia I suffer from, and it renders me grouchy whenever the likes of Sasha Cohen or Michelle Kwan take to the ice. I get angry when they fall down. I know, it’s sad and unfair. I’m working on it.

Blades of Glory, the latest Will Ferrell vehicle, has a fun time with figure skaters falling down. Not only do they hit the ice with their butts in this film, but they also take major crotch shots from fellow skaters and, in one instance, wind up decapitated. With its somewhat violent approach to the sport, as well as a big heart when it comes to the male relationship at its core, it will please fans and non-fans of the sport. And if, like me, you are a Ferrell fan, he’s in fine cantankerous form this time out.

Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, who represents the macho, beefcake side of men’s figure skating. (Actually, I didn’t know one existed, but there you go). He skates to Def Leppard, wears leather, and shoots fire from his hands at routine’s end. His skating nemesis is Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), an effeminate doll boy who releases doves on the ice and favors outfits with peacock plumes.

The two skaters wind up in a tie at the 2002 Olympics, have a public fight that results in burn victims and are banned for life from the sport. After working dead-end jobs for a few years, a loophole is discovered that will allow them to compete again. The catch: They must skate as a pair.

This sets the stage for all sorts of skating slapstick involving the grabbing and clobbering of testicles, outlandish outfits and chances for Ferrell to sing Black Eyed Peas songs. Making his character a sex addict adds another dimension to the demented fun, as Michael is prone to licking female audience members and attending sexaholic meetings.

Heder, who really hasn’t had a good headlining role since Napoleon Dynamite, gets his first big laughs without the spectacles and Afro. He brings a sufficient amount of necessary goofiness to the role, and his whiny voice fits the part. The role also allows him to show off the sort of hilarious physical comedy that made Napoleon so funny. He even gets the chance to dance again.

In supporting roles, the husband-and-wife team of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett play Fairchild and Stranz Van Waldenberg, a brother-and-sister skating team that will stop at nothing, Tonya Harding style, to win the championship. Their soft-spoken sister (the adorable Jenna Fischer) is enlisted as a spy but winds up in a budding romance with Jimmy. Their snow-cone date is just precious.

William Fichtner, in a welcomed comic turn, plays Jimmy’s selfish adoptive father—he plucked him from an orphanage after witnessing his skating prowess. A long-haired Craig T. Nelson seems a little out of place as a deranged figure-skating coach. He simply doesn’t have enough fun with the role.

In the Ferrell canon of comedies, this one finishes well below the likes of Talladega Nights and Old School. While Ferrell has his moments, some of the biggest laughs come from Poehler and Arnett as the scheming siblings. (Their JFK/Marilyn Monroe skating routine is priceless.) I’m somebody who laughs just looking at Ferrell, but those expecting Talladega-type gut-buster guffaws might be a little disappointed.

Ferrell will tackle basketball in his next film, Semi-Pro, so it appears that no sport is safe from his comedic bellowing.