Sunday, April 27, 2008

Homoeroticism on Ice

Blades of Glory is basically just one big, long gay joke about two figure skaters in ridiculously tight, flamboyant spandex outfits becoming the sport's first male-male pair and having to touch each other a lot. "Big, long" - that's what she said! Ha! Yes! I finally got to use that. Wow, I'm so immature. Um, blame it on the spirit of Blades of Glory, okay? Anyway, the guy-on-guy stuff is the movie's central premise, but it's totally harmless. The movie is too silly to be taken seriously or to be offended by it. The joke isn't anything revolutionary, but it manages to sustain itself fairly well throughout the 90-minute running time. And on a really base level, watching Jon Heder and Will Ferrell grope each other, get up all in each other's crotches, deal with the initial awkwardness of the closeness, and then learn to embrace the glory of their doublemeat sandwich is amusing. Good lord, I'm talking like the movie. Honestly, I saw it about a month ago. I guess that's sort of a testament to the movie that I can start writing and be transported back to that mind frame. Huh.

Jon Heder plays Jimmy MacElroy, the totally femme-looking good boy of figure skating known for his technical precision and aesthetic, lyrical beauty on the ice. Will Ferrell plays his rival Chazz Michael Michaels (I do love that name), the rebel bad boy of figure skating who's known for pyrotechnics (shooting flames from his fingers - deconstruct that if you want to go deeper - that's what she said! Ah, I did it again!) and his gyrating, lewd routines, as well as his techincal skill. He's also a sex addict who makes all the ladies swoon with his musky masculinity. Ferrell is at the top of his gross, flabby form in this one. He knows he's not sexy, and we know it, but it's fun to see how he plays with it. Jimmy and Chazz tie for the Olympic gold medal and get into a fight while sharing the top tier of the platform. They're both forbidden from competing professionally ever again. But, there's a loophole - they're only banned as individuals. Nobody said they couldn't skate as part of a pair. Jimmy searches for a female partner, but his coach (Craig T. Nelson, of course) realizes, while watching news footage of a backstage kids' skating show brawl between Jimmy and Chazz (Chazz is one of the costumed performers there), that the two men move beautifully together.

Coach decides to train them, the first male-male pairs team in figure skating history. The two men hate each other, but if they want to win, they'll need to overcome that. They're still not totally simpatico when they first skate publicly at nationals during a hilarious routine aptly entitled "Fire and Ice" set to Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." The costumes are outrageously, absurdly wonderful - Chazz in his flames and sparkly headband with a tiny ball of fire painted on his face and Jimmy in his pale blue with one cute little patch of blue in his hair to match and glitter on his cheeks. This routine sends them to the Olympics, much to the chagrin of vicious reigning sibling pairs team Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (real life husband and wife Will Arnett and Amy Poehler). They blame their sweet sister Katie (The Office's Jenna Fischer) for the death of their parents (they were driving her to skating practice when it happened, and she survived) and guilt her into servitude. It works really well until Katie falls for Jimmy and vice versa. Stranz and Fairchild obviously want Katie to exploit the budding relationship and sleep with Chazz to destroy Jimmy and irrevocably split the pair apart. By this time, Chazz and Jimmy have become friends. It's actually a really sweet buddy story.

So, I have no idea why I spent that long explicating the plot to this inconsequential movie, but so be it. I got carried away. I'm sure you can all guess how it ends. Anyone who thinks for one second that Jimmy and Chazz aren't going to win doesn't have the mental capacity required to watch this movie, and that's sad, because the movie's own mental capacity is questionable (and knowingly so, although that doesn't make it any less limited at times). But it's interesting to see how they get to that point. There's nothing remarkable in the least about the filmmaking. It's just there. Some of the costuming is pretty inspired, though. The special effects and stunts are appropriately and intentionally cheesy. Arnett and Poehler make incest so much fun, Fischer is great as always (I love her!) and manages to brilliantly pull off some subtle humor (there isn't much of it in the movie), and Nelson has a blast playing the coach role.

I have the utmost respect for Heder and Ferrell and their ability to utterly humiliate themselves. I hated Napoleon Dynamite and never cared for Jon Heder, but this movie made me rethink my opinion. He's hysterically, endearingly wimpy and naïve and really pushes gender boundaries by exploiting his girlish looks. To complete his "ice" ensemble, he sports glitter on his cheeks and one dainty blue streak in his feathery, wavy locks, for crying out loud. It's priceless. Ferrell is always fearless, if sometimes idiotic, but Heder is equally fearless in Blades of Glory. Will Ferrell's character just tends to embarrass himself more. I know Ferrell has been playing variations of the same persona for forever now, but I can't help it - I still think he's funny. I'm not sick of his shtick yet. And he's so committed to the joke, even when the joke is his own naked, untoned, hairy body. No one does over-the-top, balls-out, stupid humor like Will Ferrell. He is the master. I know he's better than that and can be funny in other ways, though, and I just wish he'd change it up more often and give himself a chance to really act. Regardless, he's hilarious here, and Ferrell and Heder have a strong comic chemistry that is fascinating and kind of special.

Blades of Glory is the type of movie that never blows you away; it's just generally pleasant and entertaining. It doesn't stimulate the brain, but I like that on occasion. It's not a great movie or even a really good one, but it's pretty darn okay (how's that for glowing?), and I enjoyed it. It's a bit better than average because when it's funny, it's really, really funny. There were parts that I wanted to show to people. I liked them enough to compile a clip collection of my favorite moments on a tape from the original TiVo recording. That makes it recommendable in my book. And while admittedly silly and exaggerated, the relationships, between Jimmy and Katie and especially between Jimmy and Chazz, seriously are extremely, genuinely cute and sweet, which gives Blades of Glory an edge over some of Ferrell's other outings in macho stupidity. There IS some sincerity amidst all of the insanity.

Other than that, Blades of Glory is a typical Will Ferrell comedy - no more, no less. If you go into it expecting something else, well, I don't know what to tell you. It is what it is. You know what you're going to get, so you only have yourself to blame if you hate it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)


Bill Treadway said...
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