Friday, 4 May 2007

Blades of Glory (2007)

Wax on, wax off!

From its trailer, one is led to believe that Blades of Glory would be pure comedy gold. By pairing Will Ferrell's wildly redneck cowboy character with Jon Heder's prissy effete character and throwing them into what has to be the most self-parodying and gayest sport - ice skating, and then making them perform a same-sex ice-skating doubles act with uncomfortably hilarious and provocative poses and routines, the trailer essentially promises a movie that might well be the odd couple movie of the decade. Remember, as I split my sides laughing at the trailer in the cinema - and I am in the cinema 3 days of every week at least - that I was a believer.

You will laugh heartily during Blades of Glory, but your guffaws may be a little diminished if you should watch this movie with memories of last year's Talladega Nights and School for Scoundrels in mind. These films provide an unfortunate reminder to the audience that Will Ferrell was better paired with Sacha Baron Cohen in Tallageda Nights, while Jon Heder had far more comic sparks with Billy Bob Thornton in School for Scoundrels. Perhaps they will remember that Talledega Nights had the slyer social commentary - which will raise the question: shouldn't it be easier to make fun of the visually ridiculous sport of ice skating - or that School for Scoundrels had the whole maliciously bickering, combative odd couple thing down pat. And perhaps audiences may remember that Will Ferrell was the perfect foil to the stereotypical yet subversively effette Sacha Cohen, or that Jon Heder came across as an even better and more hilariously bland/emptyheaded/emasculated man-child when juxtaposed with the alpha-maleness of Billy Bob Thornton. And perhaps, just perhaps, audiences may remember that Talladega Nights and School for Scoundrels had excellent scripts that sustained a high level of comedy from start to finish...

The problem with Blades of Glory is that aside from the key sight gags in the skating ring, half of which have been revealed in the trailer, most of its jokes are either tepid or fall flat. Dialogue-based jokes (the repartee between Ferrell and Heder, the ad libbed lines by Ferrell in over half the movie) lack real comic punch - surely a product of a director who decided to shoot a feature comedy based on a not very well-written skeletal script. In truth, the non-skating parts of this movie play like a succession of sketch ideas. You know, the type that we watch on Whose Line is it Anyway?, where the scriptwriters pull out a piece of paper with a minimal description of a sketch idea ("Will Ferrell spends hours apologising to Jon Heder through his cellphone's mailbox", "Will Ferrell is a sex addict who enters a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting"). The difference is that Whose Line is it Anyway? has comedians who have spent hours rehearsing before the show, whereas in Blades of Glory, the director just films the comedian for the next hour where he tries one ad libbed line after another, then choose the funniest or the least groan-inducing line...

I don't quite lay the blame entirely on the poor showing Will Ferrell (which isn't as bad as his turn on Bewitched), though. Clearly, the script somehow fails to bring out the comic potential of Jon Heder, or even the cartoonishly evil villains of the movie. Look, the idea that a figure skating pair decide to dress as JFK and Marilyn Monroe in their final routine is a monument of ultimate bad taste that should look even funnier and more outrageous than the latent homoeroticism of a male-male skating duo - but somehow that never gets utilised. There's even a scene where the JFK skater attempts to assassinate Will Ferrell's skater, but for some reason, there's no irony or hilarity at all in the chase sequence - aside from the fact that both skaters are slowly inching their way in a mall... on ice skates. All the missed chances are an indication that there's something very lacking in the script of Blades of Glory, and that the director never quite picked up on it.

Everyone has their bad day, though, and I'm willing to overlook this entertaining (yes, this movie brings down the house when it's funny) but disappointing (the situations thought up by the scriptwriters have far more potential than what was realised in the movie itself) comedy. Will Ferrell desperately needs the scriptwriting services of his long-time collaborator Adam McKay to bring out his best comic talents, while Jon Heder just needs better luck with casting. But nice try, guys.

First published at incinemas on 17 May 2007

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