|Blades of Glory|
|HD DVD Sports|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
It was only a matter of time before someone in the movie industry succeeded in making a male-oriented, mockery film about figure skating. While a giant marketing success, this film proved to fall short of being a truly memorable comedy film. The film is not much more than 90 minutes of Olympic figure skater cameos, semi-slapstick humor, and sexual innuendo.
According to Ben Stiller himself, who produced this film, it has always been his life long dream to create a figure skating movie about two guys who must team up. It took him most of his career to gain enough stature with the studios to push the idea for "Blades of Glory" through.
"Blades of Glory" is really nothing more than a modern day farce on skating, with several aspects stolen directly from "The Cutting Edge", a film from back in 1992.
Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) was adopted at the age of four by a billionaire tycoon, Darren MacElroy (William Fichtner) who dedicated his efforts to training children into becoming international athletic superstars. Jimmy's opening skating routine at the Stockholm Winter Olympics set the tone for the amount of figure skating mocking that was to occur throughout the rest of the film. Not only was his routine overly flamboyant, both in choreography and costume, the commentators joined in on the action. Scott Hamilton, gold medal winner in the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, disappointed me by taking part in this film. Being a real life figure skating commentator, he played the part well. However, for a man that loves all aspects of figure skating and devoted his life to it, I would have never thought he would take this role. Just to give you an example of the humor in this film at the expense of real figure skaters everywhere, during the middle of Jimmy's routine he performs his patented "peacock" move. Hamilton proceeds to say, "look at the air he is getting on the peacock". As it turns out, the "peacock" move is nothing more than a "bunny hop", which is the first thing you learn in figure skating as a child, after learning how to stand up on skates.
Don't get me wrong, obviously the entire film is meant to be a farce on figure skating. However, those that are serious about the sport, will find this film hard to stomach.
After Jimmy's performance, Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) takes the ice. Chazz is in every way possible, the opposite of Jimmy. While Jimmy represents the artistry of men's figure skating, Chazz represents the sexual innuendo and physical impossibilities of men's figure skating. He ignites the crowd with his rock and roll skating routine, with the women in the crowd behaving like they were are a rock concert.
The final scores for these two skaters reveal a tie for first place and the gold medal. With their personality clash, these two are not about to share a gold medal. So, while atop the stand and receiving their medals, the two get into an old-fashioned fistfight.
In accordance with the rules and regulations of the National Skating Federation, a hearing is held to determine the disciplinary action to be taken. Followers of figure skating will recognize many of the faces that make up the disciplinary committee. Chazz hits on Nancy Kerrigan (no pun intended), while the other members include Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill. You might recognize Commissioner Ebbers (William Daniels) as Principal George Feeny from the ABC TV show, "Boy Meets World", or perhaps at least his voice as K.I.T.T the car from "Knight Rider". I know, some of you may be wondering where some of the other highly recognizable figure skaters are in this film. Sorry to disappoint, but the rest of the family is only represented through a bunch of name-dropping scenes. These figure skaters include Michelle Kwan, Oksana Baiul, Kristy Yamaguchi, and Victor Petrinko.
As to be expected, the Skating Federation strips Jimmy and Chazz of their gold medals and ban them from Men's Figure Skating forever. Three and one half years later, Jimmy is working the stock room at a ski/skate rental house, and Chazz is a drunk and working as the evil wizard in the production "Grublets on Ice".
Through a series of coincidences, Jimmy and Chazz team up to become the world's first ever male-male figure skating team. The rest of the film is pretty traditional in terms of comedies. Jimmy and Chazz need to learn how to work together. USA competitors, Stranz and Fairchild (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), with their unspoken incestual relationship, will stop at nothing to cheat and win the gold medal. Their sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer), and Jimmy fall for each, which Stranz and Fairchild use to their advantage. And it all comes down to the Olympic showdown in Montréal.
A worthy note I think is to draw parallel once again to the film, "The Cutting Edge". Jimmy and Chazz work on a secret move called, The Iron Lotus. Not only is the idea of a secret move stolen from "The Cutting Edge", but so is the actual move itself. "The Cutting Edge" calls their move, The Pamchenko Twist. I didn't see any need for this move in "Blades of Glory" and thought it only served to detract from what is otherwise a fairly unique comedy film.
Will Ferrell seems to be making his rounds in each sports movie. Currently he has covered; figure skating, car racing ("Talladega Nights"), Soccer ("Kicking And Screaming") and basketball in the upcoming "Semi-Pro". Will shines as Chazz Michael Michaels in "Blades of Glory". While all too similar to many of his past characters, it is a character that truly fits his talents and personality. One of the most hilarious scenes in this film is during the discussion on which music will be used in the duo's routine. Will sings part of Black Eyed Peas, "Lady Hump". It is not original, but just the mannerism in which Will performs this scene is classic.
Jon Heder, most well known for his role as Napoleon Dynamite, has also had hilarious roles in "Just Like Heaven" and "The Benchwarmers". He is a great star that we should definitely be seeing more of in the near future.
The picture quality of this film, Paramount's first HD DVD, is decent, mainly because the quality varies from outstanding to poor throughout the film. For the most part the colors are a bit dull, especially for such a flamboyant production. However, there are some sequences, particularly the skating routines, where the colors and contrast are outstanding. The black levels are a bit of disappointment. Several close-ups appear soft due to the lack of a good black level and poor edges. Most of the interior shots are soft with less than vibrant colors, while the outside sequences are very deep and rich. There were a few occasions where vertical banding was present in the bright blue sky, with a minimal amount of grain. Other than that, being a recent film, the quality of the printmaster used for transfer is pristine.
The audio quality was just as variable as the video quality. The dialogue track could be strong and clear during some scenes, and then shift to dialogue that is poorly EQ'd within the same scene. The crowd noise during performances was nicely placed in the surrounds, with random discrete noises popping up from time to time allowing you to feel like you are on the ice. Overall, I felt as though the audio was a bit over-compressed. The only available option is a 1.5Mbps Dolby Digital Plus audio track. I would have definitely liked to seen a TrueHD track on this disc. Pay attention to the opening Chazz Michael Michaels skating routine, and you will hear tremendous bass in the song "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner.
The best part of this disc is the extra features, the majority of which are presented in high definition, 1080i. They are probably even better than the film itself. The "Return To Glory: The Making Of 'Blades'" is a pretty standard making of featurette. "Celebrities on Thin Ice" documents the learning process that the actors went through in preparation for the skating sequences. "Cooler Than Ice: The Super Sexy Costumes of Skating" goes behind the scenes of the sequenced-outfits that were worn by the main actors. "Arnett & Poehler - A Family Affair" is an interview with the real-life married couple, which play brother and sister in the film. "20 Questions with Scott Hamilton" is exactly what the title implies. "Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan" is an interview with Nick Swardson, who plays an overly obsessed fan of Jimmy MacElroy. "Moviefone Unscripted with Will Ferrell, John Heder, and Will Arnett" is another behind the scenes type of interview. The Deleted Scenes, Alternate Takes, and Gag Reel are truly hilarious and should not be missed. The Photo Galleries and MTV Interstitials are nothing special. And lastly, there is a music video of "Blades of Glory" by Bo Bice. Sadly there is no audio commentary with Will or Jon. I would have loved to hear that commentary.
Overall, "Blades of Glory" is lots of fun for fans of Will Ferrell and Jon Heder. While it might tick off real lovers of figure skating, the film needs to be watched for what it is - a farce. While this film will not be a comedic classic, there must be something said about two men skating together - it's down right hilarious. "Blades of Glory" is full of laughs and is great for those college students and adults looking for silly humor. I would not recommend it as a family comedy.