Review: `Blades' offers a few laughs


He's done NASCAR racing and soccer. Now Will Ferrell is on to figure skating, with "Blades of Glory" offering a few prime gags but a flimsy premise that loses its novelty quickly.

The idea sounds like a great little "Saturday Night Live" sketch: Ferrell's an arrogant rebel of a men's champ, Jon Heder's his fastidious rival, and the two end up teaming as the first men's pair after they're barred for life from solo competition.

And there's about enough funny material for a great little "Saturday Night Live" sketch. The trouble is, there's an extra 80 minutes or so of down time in which Ferrell, Heder and their co-stars are pretty much repeating their characters' shallow schtick again and again.

It took two directors - TV commercial veterans Will Speck and Josh Gordon - and four credited screenwriters to put "Blades of Glory" together. The team was not exactly in championship form, though, relying too often on Ferrell and Heder's ability to mug their way through lackluster exchanges.

Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, a sex addict on ice, whose saucy, exhibitionist routines shake up the skating world and prompt screaming female fans to hurl their panties in lieu of flowers.

Heder, the star of "Napoleon Dynamite," is Jimmy MacElroy, an orphaned prodigy raised by his adoptive father (William Fichtner) to become the epitome of skating skill and grace, even though he's done up like a peacock, complete with a feathery costume, for his ice routine that opens the movie.

"Blades of Glory" at least glides into the action briskly, establishing that Chazz and Jimmy are to-the-death adversaries. Their animosity erupts in fisticuffs that gets them both banned from the sport.

After discovering a loophole, they re-enter the skating world three years later as a men's team, to the consternation of reigning brother-sister champs Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (real-life husband and wife Will Arnett and Amy Poehler).

Rather than milking Chazz and Jimmy's growing pains as partners for more laughs, the filmmakers oddly have the two sworn enemies adjust to their pairing without much friction.

They're put through their paces by Jimmy's former trainer, Craig T. Nelson, appropriately known only as Coach, playing a gruffer variation of his character on TV's "Coach."

The movie draws a few decent laughs from strutting Chazz's and effeminate Jimmy's queasiness over their proximity to another man's anatomy.

There is one priceless sequence involving archival footage of a dangerous move Coach wants to incorporate in Chazz and Jimmy's routine. We're talking a belly laugh of a sight gag that is almost worth the price of admission alone.

The off-ice escapades are heavy on scheming by Stranz and Fairchild, who dispatch their meek sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer of "The Office"), to spy on Chazz and Jimmy and sabotage their prospects.

Ferrell showed unexpected range and subtlety in last fall's "Stranger Than Fiction," but he's back to shallow outrageousness here, and that mode as usual carries him a long way simply because his over-the-top creations are such likable boobs.

Though he has swapped the frizzy tangle of hair from "Napoleon Dynamite" for sweeping blond curls, Heder still sounds and acts a lot like the whiny, iconic geek that launched his career. "Blades of Glory" might squeak by as a one-note story, but Heder needs to expand beyond his one-note characterization if he wants to extend his career.

The filmmakers rounded up an impressive roster of skating champs for bit parts and cameos, among them Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Peggy Fleming and Sasha Cohen.

After starring in the NASCAR comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and the soccer romp "Kicking and Screaming," sports fan Ferrell is not quite done with athletics. He's now filming the basketball tale "Semi-Pro."

"Blades of Glory," a Paramount release, is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, a comic violent image and some drug references. Running time: 94 minutes. Two stars out of four.