Movie Review: Blades of Glory

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Years after a fight causes them to be banned from individual figure skating, two former stars team up to compete in pairs skating.

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Josh Gordon and Will Speck, 2007

In the world of professional figure skating, there are no bigger male stars than Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) and Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell). Where MacElroy is a technical perfectionist and prodigy who embraces the feminine side of figure skating, Michaels is a raunchy, masculine improviser. Their differences cause a feud and a very public fight, which ultimately gets them both banned from skating for life. Years later, they discover a loophole in the rule: they’re banned from solo skating, but they can still compete in pairs. When MacElroy can’t find a partner, his former coach Robert (Craig T. Nelson) comes up with a novel notion: Michaels and MacElroy can skate together as the first ever all-male pair. This invokes the ire of the world-famous, dangerously competitive Van Waldenberg twins, Franz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild (Amy Poehler). The boys must overcome their animosity towards each other and the anger of the figure skating community if they’re going to succeed in this brave new world.

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I came into this movie really expecting to hate it. I thought it would be rampantly homophobic, unfunny, and that I wouldn’t like either of the leads (who, to be fair, I have found unlikeable in the past). Needless to say, my movie options that night were limited. However, I found myself enjoying the movie much more than I thought I would. Heder’s Jimmy MacElroy is an incredibly sweet character, forced by his competitive adoptive father to be perfect. Chazz Michael Michaels is a lot less pleasant, and Ferrell is a little too over-the-top to really sell the quieter moments, which is unfortunate. However, their bromance works effectively, and it’s more affecting than I predicted. It has to be, because it’s the crux of the movie, but it’s actually fun watching them get to like each other (with the exception of one ball-breaking routine). There’s a very cute flirtation between Heder a nicely underplayed Jenna Fischer as the third Van Waldenberg child, Katie (good name), and the movie is wise enough not to give Michaels a romantic interest.

Speaking of the Van Waldenbergs, the duo of ex-marrieds Poehler and Arnett work very well together. Arnett’s idiotic but menacing Franz is a great foil to Poehler’s scheming, manipulative Fairchild. Though Fairchild does reveal a weak point in the movie: the two women with speaking lines are the saintly sweet Katie and the evil bitch Fairchild, with a few sexually adventurous girls thrown Chazz’s way. Femininity and homosexuality are also seen by the wider community of the film as the worst possible things ever, although MacElroy is embraced and accepted in all his effeminacy and, ultimately, proves to be the most valuable member of the team. The movie milks a fair few jokes from the men’s discomfort with their closeness, but it’s got plenty more in there that’s funny, particularly once Michaels and MacElroy start working together. The final chase sequence is particularly funny, and the last performance is uplifting. I’m curious to know how much actual skating Will Ferrell and Jon Heder had to learn to do, though it’s pretty clear most of the impressive stuff is done through camera trickery and doubles. It’s a fun movie, funnier than I expected.

Blades of Glory on IMDb

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