Jock schlock comedies—slapstick farces with sports themes and frat-boy senses of humor—have become a favored genre with the arrested-development set, and this latest example will make a ton of money. It has to: it stars Will Ferrell in the kind of role his fans eat up, that of a simultaneously dumb and obnoxious fellow who’s nonetheless supremely self-confident, and—as a bonus—is completely unafraid to show off his decidedly unattractive physique at the drop of a hat. And it pairs him up with another guy with an adolescent fan base and a shameless sort of exhibitionism about him—Jon Heder of “Napoleon Dynamite” fame.
The story idea must have seemed like a sharp idea in the preliminary script conferences, too: the stars play narcissistic, antagonistic, flamboyant pro ice skaters who have to team up in doubles routines—the first guy-guy coupling in history—after their violent antics get them permanently banned from individual competition. In the event, though, “Blades of Glory” is a very dull and surprisingly unappetizing comedy. It’s extremely stupid, of course—everybody in it is a goofball, acting stupidly throughout. But that’s not necessarily bad: the same thing was true of good pictures like “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary,” as well as—for those who can think far enough back—Laurel and Hardy’s two-reelers. The problem is that it’s not only endlessly repetitive, dragging out what might have made for a decent ten-minute sketch to feature length, but curiously creepy, too, with the same sort of slightly seedy comic-book tone that marked a movie like “Zoolander.” It’s the kind of movie a lot of people will leave feeling vaguely unclean. Of course, the aroma it generates won’t bother fans who embrace the smell.
The picture opens with an extravagant takeoff on skating competitions, an event in which Heder, as Jimmy MacElroy, an effete orphan with a shock of golden hair, and Ferrell, as Chazz Michael Michaels, a sex-obsessed, sleazily low-brow type, tie and then get into a fight on the winners’ platform. An executive skating committee, headed by William Daniels (looking very old, as he is) but including a gaggle of real skaters (who might have thought twice about appearing in a picture that makes their sport look so ridiculous), ban both of them for good, and they hit the skids. MacElroy, kicked out by his adoptive father (a scenery-chewing William Fichtner), winds up as a clerk in an athletic store, while Michaels sinks even deeper, taking to drink as a skater in a cheap Disney-on-Ice sort of show. But MacElroy’s old coach (Craig T. Watson, essentially reprising his old TV series role at higher pitch) figures out—after more than three years—that the rules have a loophole that allows them to skate as a couple, and starts training them as such.
What follows is pretty predictable. The two bicker and get brutalized in training, while gradually inching toward the inevitable bonding. They do crazy routines that win over the crowd. And their success leads their main competitors—the grotesque brother-and-sister team of Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, both exercising their nostrils to beat the band)—scheme to destroy them, using their sweet younger sister (Jenna Fischer, delightful as The Office’s Pam but wasted here in a part that makes no sense) as bait to drive the wedge of jealousy between them. (There’s a homoerotic undercurrent at work in the picture, but the makers try to sidestep it–because it would certainly cause unease in their target audience–by emphasizing both men’s hetero drives. Instead the big yuck at the end comes in a moment of jovial incest.) In a big finale, of course, their evil plot fails and the guys succeed in performing their coach’s masterstroke move, one so dangerous that previous attempts at it have resulted in decapitation (played here for laughs, though the ones in “300” may actually be funnier).
This exhibition of infantilism is all very silly, of course, but worse it’s not terribly funny. Ferrell and Heder, doing exactly the same characters they’ve played in the past (I’m not going to say playing themselves, which would be very insulting) do their customary shtick, but it’s graying rapidly. None of the supporting cast are seen at their best (Nick Swardson, of “Grandma’s Boy” notoriety, is especially creepy as a stalker-fan of Jimmy’s), and the commercial-trained directorial team of Will Speck and Josh Gordon doesn’t do much but bend over backward to give full leeway to the stars. The physical production is mediocre, though the obviously phony skating routines, involving stunt doubles and CGI work, will certainly tickle the easily tickled. The inevitable play-by-play commentary to the guys’ routines is way too broad, like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch.
Which is a pretty good description of “Blades of Glory” as a whole.