' ' Cinema Romantico: Blades of Glory

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Blades of Glory

The new Will Ferrell figure skating comedy only reinforces the long-held notion that the sport is ridiculous. And not in the way you would immediately assume. It's not because of the film's over-the-top costumes or in the musical numbers (including one from a really bad movie I won't reveal that made me laugh way, way out loud). No, it's because of Scott Hamilton. In the movie he is the color analyst at all the skating competitions, just as he is in real life. Now normally when sports commentators play themselves in movies what they say doesn't sound like what they would say in real life and therefore sounds both funny and ludicrous. But nothing Scott Hamilton says in "Blades of Glory" sounds like something he wouldn't say at an actual competition. Whether exclaiming "they really nailed it!" or "it really looks like they're having fun out there" it comes across as authentic. Even when he mentions "the fabled iron lotus" it doesn't sound like a stretch. None of this sounds absurd and therefore it only lends more credence to the thought that figure skating is absurd.

But anyway, the movie itself. Will Ferrell is "ice devouring sex tornado" Chazz Michael Michaels, the outlaw of figure skating. His chief rival is Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder) who is an orphaned prodigy, more concerned with the purities of the sport. Tension comes to a head when they tie for gold at the Winter Sports Game and brawl on the medal stand. They are banned from competition for life. Of course, they don't stay banned. Jimmy's Stalker (yes, his stalker) finds a loophole that will allow him to compete in the pairs competition. Therefore, with the next Winter Games only a couple months away and with no time to find female partners, Chazz and Jimmy team up.

My favorite moment in the entire film was when the duo's Coach (Craig T. Nelson) comes to the realization the two could work as the first all-male figure skating team. It's a perfect send-up of those A-Ha! Moments you so often see.

In fact, for the first two acts it works as a fairly decent riff on sports movie in generals, helped in no small part by Will Ferrell's obvious improvisations. But as these types of movies so often do, it stumbles midway through. The writers, for whatever reason, stop thinking of it as a sports movie and it devolves into a bunch of mish-mash about the rival brother & sister pairs team of Stranz and Fairchild Von Waldenberg attempting to prevent Chazz and Jimmy from competing in the climactic event.

A lot of this stems from the fact the rival brother & sister pair are very uninteresting. I don't blame the actors, Will Arnett and Amy Poehler (who's about the only redeeming value on Saturday Night Live anymore). Again, I blame the writers. They seemed to think the idea of the rival brother & sister was funny all by itself and didn't bother to develop it. Why couldn't we actually see the Von Waldenberg's skating routine at the final event? Sure, it would have been tasteless and disturbing, but that's what would have made it great.

But does the average moviegoer care about screenplay structure? Probably not. They care about getting sufficient belly laughs. By that criteria it works for the most part. And when Chazz makes a forceful pass at a former skating great you'll be happy you bought a ticket.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,

Been continuing to read & enjoy your film review/commentary.

I just stumbled across something and thought of you. This guy Matthew Dessem is watching the entire criterion collection in order:

Anyway his secret recipe, I think, is to capture his own images from the films (the legality of which I can't comment on). I know you mostly review just-released films, but it occurred to me you might find this technique handy at some point down the road.

Apparently he uses Intervideo WinDVD 6 to do the captures: