Somewhere along the line, it was theorized that Will Ferrell as an athlete is inherently funny. Fortunately for Blades of Glory, which continues the sports farce oeuvre he began with Kicking and Screaming and Talladega Nights (and will extend with the upcoming Semi-Pro), that assumption appears to be correct.
Blades begins with the backstory of figure skating prodigy Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder). Plucked from an orphanage and given his last name by creepy entrepreneur Darren MacElroy (William Fichtner), Jimmy is groomed to become a champion. His only competition is the exquisitely named Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) who brings the swagger only a self-proclaimed sex addict can to the sport.
After tying for the gold in Stockholm, the two engage in a brawl that sets a mascot on fire (the film understands the simple pleasure of torturing plushies; another mascot gets a crossbow arrow to the head) and leaves them both disqualified from singles skating for life. Years later, Jimmy's former coach, known only as Coach (Craig T. Nelson, naturally), convinces the two to get back into the game as the world's first all male pairs team. Grudgingly, they agree.
That the idea originates from Jimmy's longtime stalker (Nick Swardson) who in the same breath mumbles that he'd like to wear Jimmy's skin as a suit to his birthday party gives you an appreciation of the film's vibe. Though not as gleefully absurdist as Anchorman, the movie achieves at least a garden-variety lunacy. Most of this occurs during the film's hilarious skating routines, in particular Coach's attempts to get the pair to pull off the legendary "Iron Lotus." Archival footage of one disastrous attempt provides one of the film's best laughs.
More so than soccer or even NASCAR, the figure skating world seems ripe for parody, and Blades doesn't miss a beat. From the outlandish costumes to the fanatical fans, the film tweaks every aspect to the nth degree. Even the musical cues are dead on, especially during the final routine, performed to one of the campiest songs ever written. It's worth waiting the whole film just to hear it.
The gags hit more often than they miss, although even the ones that do work sometimes feel underplayed, like the awkward first date between Jimmy and Katie (Jenna Fischer), the little sister of rival brother/sister skating pair Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler). On the other hand, some bits are pitch perfect, in particular what may be the silver screen's first chase scene on ice skates.
For his part, Ferrell is pretty much on autopilot, which is no obstacle to the funny. Ferrell's phoned in performances pack more laughs than most comedians' labored efforts. Heder doesn't stretch much, either, playing a prissier take on Napoleon Dynamite. The supporting cast contributes gamely, though Arnett outshines them all. His Stranz is basically Gob Bluth (of Arrested Development) redux, but it works.
No one in the film, in fact, is really trying out anything new. Screenwriters Jeff and Craig Cox have the Dodgeball formula down while directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck cultivate the silly atmosphere that make any number of Ferrell's vehicles click. It may seem like faint praise to deem Blades of Glory par for the course, but when the par is that funny, it's no mean feat.
Might be a yeast infection.