If you shoot for a sports comedy, but lack the necessary creativity to surprise audiences or supply them with something new, play it safe and go for basketball, football, soccer or boxing. True, we’ve been there too many times already, and frankly, we’re growing tired of it. But what about figure skating? What about watching two comic actors battling it out on ice? Admittedly, whether you like them or not, watching Jon Heder wearing a peacock costume and listening to Will Ferrell defining the word “mind-bottling” is hilarious. So is the rest of Blades of Glory, a comedy I would define as a “better Will Ferrell movie.”
It’s time to kick some ice! Blades of Glory tosses us right into the action as it opens at the World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, where bitter rivals Jimmy MacElroy (Heder) and Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) deliver their finest moves in pursuit of the gold. When the competition surprisingly ends in a tie and both athletes are required to share one spot on the podium, they break out in a fight and get themselves banned from skating for life. That’s until one of Jimmy’s hardcore fans finds a glitch in the rulebook, according to which they could legally skate as long as they do it as a pair. Next thing we know MacElroy and Michaels are out on the ice again, practicing to become the first male figure skating couple to win the Nationals.
I have to admit, when I first heard about the premise of the movie, all I expected was yet another embarrassing slapstick comedy stuffed with tasteless humor and homophobic jokes. Surprisingly, such is not the case, and the concept of two men pairing up to skate has quite a different intention than, let’s say, Kevin James and Adam Sandler’s fake marriage in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. While certainly not among the most subtle, the story of Glory supplies its spectators with splendid ice skating, silly but amusing comedy, and refreshing performances that end up accounting for most of the film’s laughs.
The origin of the comic elements in the movie certainly lies within the striking differences between the two main characters. While MacElroy is the more classical of the two skaters, defined by excellence and delivering his figures with incredible finesse, Chazz is known as skating’s outlaw, who loves to pose and literally wants to make love to the crowds. Interestingly, the plot spends much time following the two individuals as they struggle to get to like each other, before they engage in the strenuous but hilarious process of practicing their moves. It’s light fun for everyone; often brainless, sometimes ridiculous, but rarely humiliating.
Since figure skating is still relatively fresh in the sports comedy genre, there’s a lot of space for parody. Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck use those opportunities wisely, cracking up spectators via extreme costumes, surreal figures, and priceless music, including “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Time to Say Goodbye.” Moving to the action on ice, it is compelling to watch Ferrell and Heder perform camel spins, loops, axels, and some variations that I’m sure don’t even have a title. Digital effects help out at times, but the end result is engaging and especially entertaining. The cast fits the picture, and Heder and Ferrel prove to be a perfect match, while SNL’s Amy Poehler and real-life husband Will Arnett deliver flawless performances as brutal siblings stopping at nothing in quest for the gold medals.
While Blades of Glory may not qualify as the year’s best comedy (Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up gets closer to pulling that one off), the movie had an impressive box office run, pulled generally positive reviews and targeted pretty much anyone who loves or likes Will Ferrell and Jon Heder. If there’s one thing those two achieve by the ending of the movie, it’s showing us how to really kick some heavy ice.
I guess it’s pretty safe to say that many film buffs and passionate cinemagoers get really ecstatic about a DVD that comprises a humongous amount of bonus material. As compelling as it may sound, always consider that quantity is not necessarily superior to quality. Oh yes, even in the realm of home entertainment, appearances can be deceiving, and let me tell you, the Blades of Glory DVD is no exception. I counted about 14 specials on the disc, but only three of them are actually worth taking a closer look at. So let’s kick off with those, and save the disappointment for later.
The most informative featurette on the disc is entitled “Returning to Glory: The Making of Blades of Glory,” a 15-minute piece in which the spectators receive a thrilling insight into the birth of the project and its principal photography. Cast and crew thoroughly discuss the process of the filming, and offer some interesting trivia about directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon, including the fact that due to their experience in producing commercials, they had lots of trouble shooting scenes that ran longer than 30 seconds. A couple of words from producer Ben Stiller explain why Blades of Glory saw daylight in the first place.
If you are stunned by Will Ferrell and Jon Heder’s spectacular moves on ice, be sure to check out “Celebrities on Thin Ice,” a 6-minute behind-the-scenes look at how the two lead actors got the hang of the dances and gestures that eventually lead them to the gold. Choreographer Sarah Kawahara and members of the cast and crew offer their personal scoop on the complexity of shooting the parts that would later become the film’s hottest scenes. Along with that, don’t miss the 4-minute documentary “Cooler than Ice: The Super Sexy Costumes,” which closely explores the vast variety of costumes used in the movie.
That's it for the highlights of a rather copious special features section. The disc further includes a lame gag reel, four mediocre deleted scenes, and an ordinary music video for Bo Bice’s theme song “Blades of Glory.” And in case you haven’t had enough of lackluster bonus features yet, an unbearable interview with supporting actors Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, an 8-minute collection of alternate scenes and three photo galleries will certainly do the job.
Instead of adding an intriguing filmmakers’ commentary or a short piece on the history of figure skating, clearly the producers prefer to pack the disc with tons of so-so material that quickly bores and never lives up to the level of entertainment of the feature film. The fact that this is one of the better Will Ferrell movies is reason alone to lay a hand on the Blades of Glory DVD, but if you’re specifically aiming at special features, you’re skating on thin ice.