Skating on thin ice

Fratpack comics Jon Heder and Will Ferrell have had some dodgy outings in the past year with, respectively, a terrible School for Scoundrels remake and a piece of sub-Kaufman noodling called Stranger Than Fiction. It’s a relief to see them back in Blades of Glory, a serviceably funny underdog sports movie—the kind of thing that suits them best, or suits Ferrell best, at any rate: big, broad, elaborately detailed comedy characters in the Saturday Night Live tradition.

They play egomaniac rivals in the narcissistic world of men’s figure skating, an arena of sparkly spandex costumes on the ice and foot-stamping tantrums and seething resentments backstage.
Heder is Jimmy MacElroy, an absurdly vain peacock of a skater with a figure-hugging, powder blue outfit and blow-dried blond hair.

His hated enemy is Chazz Michael Michaels, played by the permanently sweaty Ferrell: a skater with a James Brown hairdo and a sensual beer gut, who insists on his own brash brand of bad-boy heterosexuality. He is proud of the fact that he is the only skater to have won Olympic medals as well as an adult movie award.

These two titans of skating fatefully meet when they are forced to share the gold medal position on the podium at the Stockholm championships. After a queeny brawl, Jimmy and Chazz get a lifetime ban. But a loophole is discovered: the two guys are not banned from skating as partners. If they can put aside their differences and skate together in an unprecedented boy-boy combo, they have a chance at redemption. But, as one sceptic wearily remarks: “Isn’t skating gay enough?”

Ferrell has already worked the comeback-kid storyline in Anchorman and Talladega Nights, but with enough gags, comedy training montages and funny secondary characters, it works perfectly well, even if Heder is always in danger of getting eclipsed by Ferrell, that one-man macho-comedy delivery system.

They are both faced with a scene-stealing turn from Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as the creepy brother-sister skating team, Stranz and Fairchild van Waldenberg, but there is a steady stream of laughs and narrative interest. Blades of Glory isn’t quite as funny as Zoolander or Dodgeball, but it deserves a solid score from the judges.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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