Remember that one “Simpsons” episode (back when the show was still watchable) where Bart’s immune system, on orders from Bart himself, surrenders to a flu virus so he can stay home from school? That scene came to mind as I sat down to watch “Blades of Glory” – Will Ferrell’s latest excursion into the already strip-mined sports comedy genre – because as the lights dimmed I could tell my own reviewing standards had been significantly weakened. For like a series of successive illnesses can seriously compromise your immune system and leave you open to attack by opportunistic infections, so have the likes of “Norbit” and “Wild Hogs” caused serious harm to my ability to discern good comedy from bad.
Or it could be that “Blades of Glory” is actually not entirely horrible.
Here, Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, the bad boy of international figure skating. His routines are peppered with pelvic thrusts and suggestive gesticulations, while Michaels himself is an unrepentant libertine, more in line with “Slap Shot’s” Reg Dunlop than Scott Hamilton (who has a small role as an announcer). Michaels’ rival in men’s singles competition is Jimmy MacElroy (John Heder), a young phenom plucked from an orphanage and engineered to be the perfect skater. He’s the Iceman to Michaels’ Maverick, and when the championship ends in a tie, the ensuing brawl results in lifetime suspensions from skating for both men.
Three years pass, and MacElroy is working at a sporting goods story while Michaels is drunkenly skating his way through twice daily matinees of a children’s ice revue. A chance meeting between the two leads to MacElroy’s former coach (Craig T. Nelson, looking as if he’d like nothing more than another “Poltergeist” sequel) to suggest the two team up and skate as a pair. Improbably, they agree, and begin training in earnest for the movie’s Olympics equivalent. Their road won’t be easy, for not only do they have to learn to skate as a team, but they must also beat defending champions Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), a brother-sister duo with a decidedly creepy relationship.
“Blades of Glory” starts out slowly, with Ferrell doing little more than adding a touch of sexual deviance to his usual dopey Joe Blow character. It isn’t hard to tell where the film’s creators are coming from: see, ice skating is an inherently gay looking activity, so if you have two ostensibly straight dudes wearing spandex, mincing around on the ice, and awkwardly finding themselves at face level with each other’s crotch, that’ll be funny, right?
Things become a little more perverse in the second and third acts, however, which has a lot to do with the increased presence of Arnett and Poehler. There are also some inspired cameos from the likes of Andy Richter, Luke Wilson, and a number of professional skaters (including Sasha Cohen, who gets one of the biggest laughs in the movie), and I’m a sucker for any movie that puts Queen’s “Flash Gordon Theme” to such good use.
Deep down, I’m not sure if “Blades of Glory” is really that much better than “Talladega Nights” or “Kicking and Screaming,” two flicks I didn’t have a lot of use for. It’s the same brand of vaguely ludicrous humor we’ve come to expect from Ferrell’s movies…the PG-13 ones, anyway…and it’s pretty much an identical template to what we’ve seen repeatedly for the last five years. But there are a fair number of laughs, and Arnett is reliably entertaining.
And it’s funnier than “Wild Hogs,” which is about as ringing an endorsement as I’m capable of these days.