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Thursday, 2 May 2019

Retro Review: Blades Of Glory (2007)

Blades Of Glory
Cast: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, William Fichtner, Jenna Fischer, Craig T. Nelson
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $145 million 

Plot: In 2002, two rival Olympic ice skaters were stripped of their gold medals and permanently banned from men's singles competition. Presently, however, they found a loophole that will allow them to qualify as a pairs team

'Ice, Ice Skating, Baby!'

Blades of Glory descended on the cinema and theater-going public over 10 years ago and thus garnered favourable reviews and recouped nearly $150 million, worldwide. An affectionate parody on the sport known as ice skating, this is a traditional underdog tale where the hero triumphs against all the odds. There was something that struck me about Blades of Glory, but what really impressed me was how watchable it became, thanks to the physical slapstick, visual wit, the amusing one-liners, an arch-nemesis duo for the guys to contend with, and how the story managed to hold up all the way through.  

The film surprisingly has multiple writers on board, Craig Cox, Jeff Cox, John Altschuler, David Krinsky: usually, this spells trouble and quite often, this can result in scattered and underdeveloped characters and story. Yet surprise surprise, their efforts have turned out to be one that is one of the best comedies of 2007, alongside Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz. 

Chazz Michael Michaels is a ladies man (in an odd way) and sex-o-holic figure skater who is a rival to Jimmy MacElroy, whose life is run by his controlling father, Darren. After Chazz and Jimmy brawl on the podium during the world championship, they are each stripped of the gold medal and winnings and get thrown out of the competition for good. Chazz becomes a boozy, overweight guy and who doesn't give a damn, anymore. 3 and a half years later, Jimmy's stalker tries to find a way to get him back on the ice: it appears that there is a loophole whereby Chazz and Jimmy can compete in the contest -, providing they enter as a pairing. With the help of Jimmy's old coach, the two begrudgingly team up and train and prepare for their showdown with their new rivals, Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg.  

Figure skating as a subject and theme is one of the easiest and simplest concepts ripe for a comedy, or be it a film around; it all boils down to the execution and whether or not it touches on the tropes, conventions and the things associated with it, and it does so in a pleasing and entertaining fashion. Well, Blades of Glory succeeded and whilst this is wittier and funny and not ha-ha-ha funny, the slapstick and pratfalls, which ranged from amusing to almost raucously hilarious, helped the film a great deal.

There was a tad more slapstick here than in Anchorman, which was a huge sigh of relief and was something I demanded and expected more out of a Will Ferrell comedy. And in Chazz Michael Michaels, was a Will Ferrell character that displayed far more range, gusto and bravado and physical comedy than I have seen him put out. It may not be and is not is his best role; that it is another 'jerk'-like character.... yet humour-wise and in terms of the funny, this is (probably) his funniest I have seen of his, so far. Looking like he was having a hoot here and several times, he displayed the bonkers side of Ferrell, as well as Michaels's clueless, oafishness and manly-ness. Usually, his characters are abrasive, loud and can come across as overconfident -, but here with Chazz, there is a certain likability and charm that Ferrell exudes. He makes him likeable, but also a bit of a moron, but a moron who is appealing and a character we can root for.  

That and seeing Will Ferrell strutting and skating around on thin ice in an undersized and fetching red and snazzy leotard and with a bad- looking '80s style hairdo is an image that will be ingrained in my mind. 

Opposite Ferrell was Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder's prissy, nice guy image as Jimmy and the two polar opposites make for a curious comedy double act. Heder makes for a surprisingly good foil for Ferrell's larger- than- life onscreen persona and seeing this pairing break out into silly- looking poses and over-the-top flips and twists (courtesy of CGI) made me smile from ear to ear. The snarky brother and sister incestuous villains played by Will Arnett and Amy Poehler get in on the act, as they try to beat them at their own dastardly game. They could have been written in a way that they are throwaway and downright irritating to the core, but thankfully, Arnett and Poehler's turns are entertaining, despite their one-note characterisations. 

With the acerbic ness of Anchorman and its parody on figure skating, this is another good addition to Will Ferrell's filmography; its tone is akin to The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and its satirical take on magicians and acts of illusionary. The comedy garners considerable laughs and the broad feel and approach Blades of Glory opts for, makes it more entertaining than I'd expected. One scene has Chazz being chased by Stranz and when Stranz fires what looks like a harpoon gun, it hits the mascot, and he dies! Thus forth, there is a refreshing wittiness and zip to this comedy with almost every scene as it successfully pokes fun at the sport. It avoids going down the 'gross-out' route and continuously resorting to tasteless gags on bodily parts and functions and present things in a whimsical way too. Blades of Glory is also no stranger to cameos from figure skating greats that include Nancy Kerrigan. 

This is exactly how I wanted Anchorman to be like, as well as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Bobby Ricky. Blades of Glory is not usually the type of comedy one would associate Ferrell with, but here he shows that he can cut it in the slapstick and conventionalist comedy stakes, and not just deliver in surrealist comedy. Ferrell steals the limelight, pulling out all the stops and is comedy gold, as he and the film embrace the silliness of it all and playing it all for laughs and doing it well, whilst treading on Zoolander's waters. 

Final Verdict: 

A sports flick that doesn't take itself too seriously, but at the same time embracing its traditions and roots of figure skating, whilst it is by no means groundbreaking and the second to third act becomes a tad mundane, Blades of Glory is most cases, a glorious and spontaneous display of this winter-based sport & the best film on ice skating that I've seen that basks under the light with good skating action, amusing comedy to delight and tickle viewers with and all along with an engaging and flashy turn by Will Ferrell.

And just as importantly for a comedy, it is a heap of fun.


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