Whether playing an anchorman, a stock-car racer, or now, in Blades of Glory, an ice skater, Will Ferrell is as imperturbable as a five-year-old happily lost in his own fantasy kingdom. He’s the best, he’s the star — and yet his soft-bellied schlumpiness only enhances his manic self-regard. In Blades of Glory, Ferrell is the ridiculously named Chazz Michael Michaels, a long-haired rock star on the ice, humping the air in time to various power ballads. An admitted sex addict, Chazz turns everything he does into sex, and the crowd loves him. The sight of Ferrell’s body poured into a skater’s skin-tight duds is a visual joke, but it’s also the triumph of the average man’s will to be dazzling despite his physical foibles.
Chazz and rival skater Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) get themselves in trouble with the Skating Federation, which bans them from male single skating for life. As it happens, a loophole allows them to re-enter competition as a pair, and though they despise each other, they learn to work together. This aspect of Blades of Glory is tired, especially since the antagonists seem to warm to each other when we’re not looking; at midpoint, Chazz refers to Jimmy as “my friend,” though they haven’t seemed very friendly — they’re more like roommates passing the time with small talk.
Blades of Glory could’ve used a bit more of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as the Van Waldenbergs, a flashy brother-sister team (the actors are married in real life) plotting to cheat Chazz and Jimmy out of the gold medal. Arnett, with his rumbly, insinuating growl and almost-handsome looks, and the mad pixie Poehler, never more dangerous than when she’s smiling, make the perfect debauched prince and princess of a sport the movie clearly sees as cut-throat. Nobody onscreen is pure of heart except for naïve Jimmy and his new girlfriend, sweet little Katie (Jenna Fischer), sent by her siblings the Van Waldenbergs to spy on our heroes. One of the four screenwriters came up with a neat way for Jimmy to express his love for Katie, by taking her out for sno-cones — Jimmy is so at home on ice he eats it.
Overall it’s a painless if unremarkable night out, lifted considerably by the over-the-top skating sequences. It looks as though Ferrell’s and Heder’s features have been digitally mapped onto stunt skaters whenever possible, so you get the benefit of the actors’ expressions and the skaters’ physical expressiveness. The chunky, hypercharged Ferrell and the lithe, slightly zonked Heder are like Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton on ice, and the costumes are suitably glittery and nutty and, well, gay. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of two heterosexual men going through highly homoerotic gyrations, a surefire gag in many recent hit comedies from Borat to 300.
Some bits, like Heder eating reams of toilet paper or an overextended chase between Ferrell and Arnett on skates (it continues, awkwardly, even off the ice), aren’t very inspired. A lot of Blades of Glory feels like padding between the skating events, though the outcome of an early North Korean attempt at the hazardous maneuver the Iron Lotus is hilariously ghoulish, and Jenna Fischer enjoys a small triumph when she reads the last line of a phone conversation with the perfect note of distracted incomprehension. There are some small pleasures between the bigger pleasures of the ice, but not enough of them. Blades of Glory might’ve been better off as a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary; who wouldn’t want to watch Parker Posey neurotically swanning around in a peacock costume while Fred Willard offered clueless commentary and coach Eugene Levy shouted well-meaning but disastrous encouragement?