At first glance, figure skating would seem too easy a target for a comedy. The skin-tight leotards, standard issue for men and women; the prancing movements on the ice, also falling across genders; the humiliating falls. But Blades of Glory, the new romp starring Will Ferrell as one half of the world's first-ever all male figure skating duo, proves easy targets can sometimes make for perfect bull's eyes, over and over again. As it happens, figure skating has never had a proper send-up on film, and Blades relishes this fact delighting in cameos from the sport's celebrities current and past--Sasha Coen and Nancy Kerrigan anyone?--while making a delightful mockery of its subject matter.
When Blades opens, the World Championships in Oslo are in full swing. And in the male figure skating portion, wunderkind Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) is finishing his flamboyant set, angling for gold. In TV coverage reels breaking down the athletes' careers, we learn that MacElroy was raised to be perfect on the ice; adopted at a young age by a millionaire who began "collecting" sports prodigies, MacElroy is known for his grace. Upsetting the competition with his edgier set is MacElroy's biggest rival, Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell). Bred from the wrong side of the tracks, Chazz is a hard-drinking, hard-partying skater. A self-proclaimed sex addict whose mantra is "I am figure skating!," Chazz grew up in Detroit, where he was "big in the underground sewer-skating scene."
When Chazz and Jimmy tie for gold, a scuffle on the podium leads to a very public humiliation in front of legions of fans, while setting the local mascot ablaze. Kicked out of men's figure skating for good, Chazz winds up drinking himself into oblivion in a traveling ice show, while Jimmy, "unadopted" by his father, tries to make ends meet working at a ski shop.
When the two are uneasily reunited--the old loophole doesn't deny the pair the chance to participate in pair figure skating--they decide to take on the establishment and try again for gold; this time, competing against the standard male/female figure skating pairs.
Equipped with a stronger script than in some of his recent outlandish comedies, like Talladega Nights (which felt loosely structured and heavily improvised), Ferrell does the heavy lifting here. While Heder provides some welcome visual yucks as the more effeminate half of the duo, complete with flyaway tresses, Ferrell steals the show. And, with his ability to inject humor into even the most insipid scenarios, he manages to take the sturdy platform here and run with it. Whether having his head buried in Heder's crotch during their painstaking first number on the ice or simply spitting out lines about his sex addiction, Ferrell proves once again how much he can do with a little material.
While supporting work from husband and wife team Amy Poehler (of SNL) and Will Arnett (of the unfortunately canceled Arrested Development)--they play the cheating, rival figure skating brother-sister pair, Fairchild and Stranz Van Waldenberg--is welcome, Blades is best when Ferrell delights off the ice and when the dance numbers kick in. While Ferrell and Heder have their share of uproarious numbers, Poehler and Arnett also get their share of giddy, sensationally ridiculous showmanship, once in a hip-hop act (which has Arnett donning a gold tooth) and again in a "historical" number in which she plays Marilyn Monroe to his JFK.
Although some strong supporting players are mostly wasted--Jenna Fischer (aka Pam from The Office) has little to do here but resuscitate her look-at-the-camera-dumbfounded-at-the surrounding-idiocy schtick from her Dunder Mifflin days, and Craig T. Nelson (as coach) issues forth mostly stale pep talks--Blades finally gives Ferrell the kind of comedy that has some gags and a shred of a story line.