Blades of Glory
Director: Josh Gordon
Cast: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, William Fichtner, Jenna Fischer, Nick Swardson, Craig T.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Display Artist: Will Speck & Josh Gordon
First date: 2007
US DVD Release Date: 2007-08-28
Coming after Dodgeball and Beerfest but before Hot Rod or Balls of Fury, Blades of Glory landed in theaters squarely in the middle of Hollywood's mock-sports parade. The comedy subgenre's formula is simple: plug outlandish characters into a sport not known for its cinematic intensity, (or not known much at all), creating a story that can be milked for spoofy laughs as well as, secretly, a ready-made traditional underdog plot.
The sport in question here is pair’s figure skating; an additional comic twist comes from the pairing of two men, rival skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), who were banned from singles skating after a post-medal dust-up. To the film's credit, the tension is based more on personality than gay panic; Jimmy's preening fussiness (Heder takes a few baby steps away from Napoleon Dynamite) versus Chazz's ridiculous arrogance, (a Ferrell specialty).
In addition to its central pair, Blades of Glory overflows with talent. The bad guys are a hilariously creepy sibling pair played by real-life husband and wife Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. Their sympathetic sister is played by Jenna Fischer (The Office); Romany Malco, and a deadpan Craig T.
Nelson provide support and several more comedians have cameo appearances.
Aside from the mock-sports category Blades also fits into the unofficial series of films that are heavy on improvisation and absurdism and light on sentiment from comedy's current ruling class (including Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, and Ben Stiller, who produced Blades but doesn't appear on screen).
Blades is about par for a mock-sports film and maybe a step or two above, with its hilarious character back stories and tossed-off Ferrellisms.
But compared to the best recent studio comedies it's, if not quite second-tier, more of a brisk, disposable amusement than an instantly rewatchable classic.
The script and its associated jokes are less inspired than Ferrell's collaborations with Adam McKay — in fact, this film feels more a decent imitation of something Anchorman or Talladega Nights, with Ferrell giving a committed but unsurprising run-through of his mediocre-American-man routine. Blades of Glory lacks the fearless tangents of those films; but it's cut almost too tight, with only a few precious moments afforded to Arnett, Poehler, and Fischer, all funny in different but harmonious keys.
The DVD release feels an effort to beef up the film's comic credibility. First-time directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck don't provide a commentary track. The centerpiece of the disc's extras is a set of several ample deleted scenes, garnished with alternate takes with the actors trying out different lines. In short, it is a collection of comedic riffs of various sizes.
Sometimes these comic extensions encompass entire plot twists or subplots: one scene reveals that Chazz and Jimmy grew up at the same orphanage, and brings mock-depth to Chazz's hostility toward his rival; another dispatches a supporting character with a stalker's bullet.
The weirdest and therefore possibly most valuable is a sequence that gives an in-movie genesis to the Bo Bice song that plays, with vague but unexplained irony, over the closing credits (as well as a music video included on the disc).
It turns out that Chazz composed “Blades of Glory,” the song, on keytar, a deeply Ferrell-esque touch, in earnest tribute to his new figure-skating partnership. Scenes this reveal that Blades of Glory has more comedy than it knows what to do with.
Doubtless these excesses, mostly agreeable and some hilarious, are a byproduct of the film's talented cast. If Arnett and Poehler get too little screen-time in the actual film, fans can soak up a gloriously goofy joint interview.
“A Family Affair” has them fielding questions about their working relationship, including the question of who is funnier (Arnett describes Poehler as having “the heart of the champion who never was a champion…
the heart of the runner-up”), and whether two funny people might produce an extraordinarily funny child (they think no, envisioning a brooding “baby Sean Penn”).
Elsewhere, Arnett joins Ferrell and Heder in a “Moviefone Unscripted” Q&A session, apparently originally part of promotional wireless content. The improvisations and goofing around are less than essential, but still impressive for their sustained silliness.
These moments, as well as the comic detail visible in a featurette on the film's skating costumes, make you appreciate the sustained silliness of the movie itself.
At this point, it takes genuine pros to make the mock-sport movie look a worthwhile competition.
For Your Reconsideration: Blades of Glory
The Will Ferrell Sports Movie craze spanned just four features, although it seems there were so many more of them. Between 2005 and 2008, each year saw a new release right on schedule, high school sports seasons.
First came soccer (Kicking and Screaming), and then car racing (Talladega Nights), followed by figure skating (Blades of Glory), and finally basketball (Semi-Pro).
By the time the last one had come and gone, though, the idea of Will Ferrell playing in organized competition couldn’t have been more groaningly familiar. An end had to be near, if for no other reason than the fact that he was running sports.
We’d seen Ferrell take a nutshot from just about every flying projectile possible, and it felt we’d seen enough. Public opinion all but demanded that he retire his jersey for good.
It’s now been three years since a Will Ferrell Sports Movie has been released, and the years have not been kind. Somehow Talladega Nights is the only one to be remembered fondly, while Semi-Pro and Blades of Glory are generally considered interchangeable markers of excess, and everyone pretends Kicking and Screaming didn’t happen at all. This is an unfair taxonomy.
Talladega isn’t a great comedy, and Semi-Pro isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. Kicking and Screaming is remembered exactly correctly, insofar as it’s been completely forgotten. Blades of Glory, though, while not exactly in the all-time comedy pantheon, is easily the best of the Will Ferrell Sports Movies, and that’s why it’s the subject of today’s Reconsideration.
Blades starts out at the World Championships of Figure Skating, where two of America’s greats are gunning for the number one spot in men’s singles. Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) is a technical wizard, raised by an adoptive father who went from breeding horses to grooming human athletes, making Jimmy into his grand project.
Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell, who has almost as many great character names as Sylvester Stallone) is, of course, a superfreak — a swaggering figure skater/porn star. He seems, at first thrust, just another bucket from Ferrell’s well of egotistical hypersexual alpha men, and he is, but this “ice-devouring sex tornado” has enough variance to stand out among the bunch.
It’s Will Ferrell’s most idiosyncratic character since Ron Burgundy.
Due to some sort of incident (no spoil-o), our heroes are banned for life from competitive figure skating.
Cut to four years later and the two have fallen on hard times — MacElroy now works in a skating shop, and Michaels is the debauched star of local children’s skating attraction, The Grublets.
Both former champs are haunted by the levels of success they never attained; MacElroy more so, since getting banned meant getting “un-adopted” by his strictly business father (played by William Fichtner, in a role Christopher MacDonald might have also aced.
) The mutual exile comes to a halt, though, when one of the side characters discovers a loophole in the official bylaws. It turns out that Michaels and MacElroy are banned from competitive skating as singles, but they are both eligible for pairs skating. By now you surely see where this is going.
For a movie about the first male figure skating duo, there is a laudable lack of “gay panic” jokes on deck. Lest we forget, Blades of Glory came out in 2007, the year that brought us Adam Sandler’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.
That movie sprained its spinal cord bending over backwards to assure viewers how revolted the title characters were at having to pretend to be gay for each other.
In Blades of Glory, Jon Heder’s character is pretty effeminate, and he does have a signature move called the “Galluping Peacock,” but for the most part, the idea of homosexuality isn’t even alluded to enough for the characters to freak out over it.
There’s a thin line between gay panic and being visibly grossed out at having another man’s crotch mere centimeters from your face during competitive sport. Considering that it’s a Will Ferrell figure skating movie, Blades stays surprisingly on the smart side of that line.
It’s almost unfair to call this a Will Ferrell movie, though. Pound for pound, Blades of Glory boasts one of the best ensemble comedy casts of the last ten years. Don’t believe me? Okay, the main duo’s coach is played by Craig T. Nelson (for whom it must have taken special coaxing to get to play a coach again.
) Their unscrupulous rivals, the Van Waldenberg siblings, are played by real-life marrieds, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. Nick Swardson plays Jimmy McElroy’s stalker with a creepy tenderness that’s surprisingly restrained (for Swardson.) The criminally underemployed Romany Malco (Jay in The 40-Year Old Virgin) plays a dance instructor.
Also Rob Corddry, Andy Richter, and Luke Wilson have terrific one-scene roles.
Everybody pulls their weight too, bringing something more than a recognizable face to the table.
Well, almost everybody — Jenna Fisher (probably forever doomed to be Pam from The Office) strikes a false note with her line readings in just about every scene she’s in, and Jon Heder has a tough time selling his do-gooder’s humblebraggy selflessness at times.
So much goes right, though, that these speed bumps barely even register. For example, despite that last comment, Jimmy McElroy is the only decent role Heder has had since he blew up in Napoleon Dynamite.
He’s not the only one to come out ahead for a change either: Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are two of the funniest people around, but their humor is often diluted by roles in so-so movies. Their previous missteps are all the more reason then why it’s refreshing to see them nail it as sneering villainous siblings. It also doesn’t hurt that for their characters, the costume-designer really just went for it.
Central to the film’s success, though, is the chemistry between the two leads. Ferrell’s undisciplined, showboating improviser and Heder’s mechanics-minded traditionalist are straight the screenwriter’s handbook, but it’s fun to watch the relationship arc.
When the pair begrudgingly gain respect for one another — right around the time they skate to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — it’s affecting in the way of an actual sports movie, rather than the usual semi-parody of such.
Blades of Glory is unique in its ability to transcend its goofy roots as a Will Ferrell Sports Movie when it needs to, and then ease back into goofiness when there’s an opportunity for laughs.
Although Blades made $119M domestically, and critics seemed to the movie, it still seems to be written off as just another of the seemingly myriad Will Ferrell Sports Flicks, and remembered just about as unfondly as Semi-Pro.
Perhaps if released at a different point in his career, it would have been thought of as one of the highlights alongside Ferrell’s untouchable 2003-2004 run (Old School, Elf, Anchorman). Timing is everything, though.
Hopefully enough time has passed that if the upcoming Will Ferrell football movie is any good, it’ll get judged on a level playing field.
Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.
For Your Reconsideration: Blades of Glory
10 years later, it’s time to give ‘Blades of Glory’ the respect it deserves
‘Blades of Glory’ hit theaters 10 years ago today. I was 12 years old at the time, and there was nothing that could get me in a theater faster than a new Will Ferrell movie. To this day, I have never laughed harder in a movie theater than I did on March 30, 2007. I left the theater fully confident that I had seen a comedy classic.
But despite generally favorable reviews and nearly $150 million at the box office, ‘Blades of Glory’ has been all but cast aside in favor of 2007’s shiny new toys: 'Superbad' and 'Knocked Up.' And while the aforementioned films are both truly hilarious and worthy of the praise they’ve received, they’ve had their time in the sun.
I’ve probably seen ‘Blades of Glory’ 10 or 15 times since it came out. It is truly a delightful movie from beginning to end, and it pains me to know that there are millions — if not billions — of people around the world who haven’t experienced this piece of classic American cinema.
Allow me to walk you through a few clips and make the case for why ‘Blades of Glory’ deserves your time, attention, and most importantly, your respect.
Let’s start with the premise. ‘Blades of Glory’ stars Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy, two of the best professional male figure skaters in the world. When the rivals get banned from men’s singles forever after fighting on the gold medal stand, the only way to get back on the ice is to team up and skate as the world's first all-male pair.
From the get-go, this movie is completely committed to its ridiculous premise. Jimmy MacElroy was plucked an orphanage and trained Rocky IV-style to be the best skater in the world. Chazz, meanwhile, is an “ice-devouring sex tornado” who learned the craft by skating in Detroit’s frozen underground sewers as a young boy.
Their acts reflect their upbringing, and when the two take the medal-stand at the beginning of the movie, all hell breaks loose.
Let me drop some names:
Will Arnett. Amy Poehler. Rob Cordry. Jenna Fischer. Nick Swardson. Craig T. Nelson.
If you're reading those names and thinking Huh, if only all those people would get together and make a movie, it would probably be one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my entire life, then you'd be right. Because — surprise! — that's the cast of 'Blades of Glory.'
Arnett and Poehler, in particular, shine as Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, the brother and sister duo who were the best in pairs skating until Jimmy and Chazz team up. Their dynamic with their little sister Katie, played by Jenna Fischer, is gold in each and every scene.
A full decade after it hit theaters, 'Blades of Glory' holds up extremely well. The cast is still recognizable, the jokes land just as well as they did in 2007, and the ridiculous escapism would be right at home in a movie theater today.
Do yourself a favor, and watch 'Blades of Glory' with all your family and friends. Better late than never.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.
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