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Taking a big tumble

'Blades of Glory' masterfully parodies figure skating but gets lost when the sequins and skates are gone.

March 30, 2007|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

Based on the number of prominent cameos by figure skating royalty in the pas de deux comedy "Blades of Glory," the world of toe loops, double axels and triple lutzes has a pretty good sense of humor. And that's a good thing because the movie, which stars Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as rival skaters forced to team up, leaves no sacred cow or salchow untipped (although it appears to be devoid of Dick Button references).

Olympic champions Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming and Brian Boitano, among other skating luminaries, lend a degree of contrasting verisimilitude to the otherwise farcical proceedings that include a terrifically macabre variation on the death spiral. "Blades" is an often hysterical parody as long as bodies are in motion, nailing the compulsories of a sport ripe for caricature, but skates on thinner ice outside the rink.

Ferrell plays alcoholic sex addict Chazz Michael Michaels, an uber-macho cross between Jim Morrison, a taller, doughier Elvis Stojko and one of the Hanson brothers from "Slap Shot." Heder is the ambiguously elfin Jimmy MacElroy, an orphan raised to bio-engineered perfection by his adoptive father (William Fichtner), with a trademark move called the Galloping Peacock replete with plumed costume.

After Chazz and Jimmy tie for the men's singles gold medal at the Olympic-like World Wintersport Games, they engage in an ungentlemanly brawl on the awards podium that results in them being banned from competition for life. A loophole in the rules, however, allows them to restart their careers 3 1/2 years later as the first male-male pairs skating team.

Ferrell and Heder make good comedy foils, the latter freshening what feels increasingly like a formula turn for the film's ostensible star. Chazz's boorishness is balanced by Jimmy's waifish pluckiness, and just when you want to slap one or the other upside the head, someone usually does.

Although the film makes comic fodder of these two extreme opposites on the chain of masculinity, there's not much to it beyond the obvious sight gags and innuendo. The filmmakers may be making some generic point about the warring masculine and feminine aspects within every male, but they were far more interested in the high-concept idea of two men flinging each other across the ice.

The movie is at its funniest and most original when zinging the sometimes pretentious milieu of competitive figure skating. Whatever combination of choreography, camera trickery and special effects were required to render the over-the-top, hyper-real skate numbers, they're executed with wit and ingenuity.

The off-ice shenanigans, however, including a subplot involving Jimmy's infatuation with the younger sister (Jenna Fischer of "The Office") of the reigning pairs champions, are sluggish and lose much of the momentum generated by the skating.

If a lot of the dialogue is rather earthbound, the performers soar when throwing themselves into the on-ice routines. The two leads are gleefully matched in their enthusiasm by real-life husband-andwife Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as Chazz and Jimmy's archrivals, the brother-sister team of Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg. Arnett has a maniacal grin plastered on his face that seems eerily ripped from some Winter Olympics gone by.

In keeping with the pairs theme, the movie was scripted by a pair of twosomes, Jeff Cox and Craig Cox, and John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky (from a story by the Coxes and Busy Philipps), and directed by the duo responsible for the Geico cavemen commercials, Will Speck and Josh Gordon.

"Blades of Glory." MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, a comic violent image and some drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. In general release.

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