The sheer dreamy silliness of Will Ferrell’s new comedy, “Blades of Glory,” carries it for a remarkably long time. Even after the movie starts recycling ideas and turns formulaic with an overextended chase sequence, it’s impossible to dislike.
The freshness of the story line, about a pair of ice-skating divas who are forced to work together, must be attributed to a couple of brothers, Jeff Cox and Craig Cox, who had never written a screenplay. They’ve given Ferrell a chance to stretch as never before, and Jon Heder (from “Napoleon Dynamite”) turns out to be an ideal partner.
Heder plays an insufferable child prodigy, Jimmy MacElroy, whose professional skating days are numbered once he indulges in a nasty public confrontation with the macho king of the arena, Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell). Their fans are horrified by their juvenile brawl on the ice, Jimmy and Chazz are stripped of their medals, and they’re forbidden ever to skate again professionally.
Three and a half years later, Jimmy’s most rabid fan, an obsessed stalker with a talent for finding legal loopholes, comes up with a plan to get around the ban. Jimmy and Chazz were single skater artists, but there’s no rule against them returning as a pair: the first male/male pair in figure-skating history.
The only problem: they hate each other. Indeed, they first attract publicity by beating up on each other in public once more. The rest of the movie deals with their professional and personal progression toward becoming partners, while a couple of mean-spirited rivals (Amy Poehler, Will Arnett) try to destroy their new career.
In addition to the Coxes, three other writers are given script credit, including John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who worked on Fox’s “King of the Hill” series, and Busy Philipps, a story writer on another memorable show, “Freaks and Geeks.” But it’s clear that the producers, among them Ben Stiller, were first impressed by what the Coxes had created.
“It’s just such a funny idea,” Stiller claims in the press kit, “so we decided to try to get it made.”
It can’t have been easy. Stunt doubles and special effects certainly helped, but Ferrell and Heder did have to learn to skate reasonably well for several key scenes, and so did Arnett and Poehler. A large part of the fun of the movie is watching such familiar actors daring to take on such daunting physical challenges.
The film’s co-directors, Josh Gordon and Will Speck, were nominated for an Oscar for their live-action 1998 short, “Culture,” and they’ve continued as partners with a series of music videos and commercials, including Geico’s caveman routine. This is their first feature, and it’s a most promising debut.
At its best, “Blades of Glory” recalls Christopher Guest’s series of knowing showbiz mockumentaries, especially “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind.” The filmmakers may lack Guest’s interest in supporting actors (William Fichtner is wasted, and Poehler lacks her “Saturday Night Live” verve), but there’s no reason to sniff at what they do accomplish.