Monday, April 30, 2007

25th April 07 - Blades of Glory

Few people know that I could have been an Olympic figure skater. If I’d just been ice skating more than once, learnt how to let go of the side without falling over, and practised for many hours a day over a period of years. It’s amazing how a few little details can completely alter your life.

I mention my brush with ice-based stardom because this season the comedy folk have decided to plonk their buddy-movie sports comedy into the world of champion figure skating. The set-up is simple. Two rivals - the angelic Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) and sex-addict wild man Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) are banned from their beloved sport, but discover a loophole that will allow them to compete again. The catch? It has to be as a pair. It’s paint-by-numbers comedy. Even your general idiotic member of the public would be able to map out the plot. But rather than fall into bland comedy hell, Blades of Glory has a few aces up its sleeve.

Ace one: the cast. Will Ferrell may be starting to be a bit overkill on films at the moment (I wish he’d slow it down and concentrate on picking the best films to work on, rather than a slap-dash stew of semi-amusing to so-so clones), but he brings a cocky edge of absurdity to Chazz. Jon Heder proves he’s not just Napoleon Dynamite (as fabulous as he was). His amazing teeth and golden locks are enough to drawn smiles alone, but coupled with a laid-back naivety and a penchant for wearing ridiculous costumes and he’s a worthy contender to Ferrell for taking the comedy crown of the film.

Sweeping in to take the glory, however, is Will Arnett (probably the best character in the brilliant Arrested Development) as the lads’ main rival. His physical comedy is genius - just the way he holds himself, or lies on a sofa, is enough to make you grin. It’s a great shame he isn’t in this film as much as he should have been.

Ace two: the premise. Because despite the obvious sports-comedy formula, this is still two men ice skating together. There’s plenty of opportunity to create comic scenarios that are unique to this sport. Macho posturing resulting in a bare-chested slide across grazing ice. Dubious new lifts involving hands on parts. Ridiculous routines. It’s all there, plus some great surreal moments too.

Combine these two aces and you get a comedy that produces constant smiles, occasional chuckles and one or two guffaws. It was surprisingly good, but this is coming from the perspective that on first glance I was expecting it to be complete shit. Though it’s amusing with some great lines and performances, there’s still the genre element that it can’t quite break out of. This is no Zoolander or Anchorman. Plus there are some really disturbing CGI shots, where the actors’ faces are superimposed on to a leaping skater. I’m being picky here, but they freaked me out.

A welcome bout of fun after all the seriousness of the last few weeks, and impending heaviness of next week (stay tuned to see why) but as this film never really went the extra comedy mile, I’m just going to award it the base-recommended CF0.

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