BLADES OF GLORY - DVD review

I'd give this film a bronze, but it still takes home a medal.

DeanWink

A good comedy is meant to make us laugh. It is to help us escape the mundane tasks of normal life, to relieve stress or to just pass some idle time. Comedies are typically not Oscar winning stories or picture of the year material. They exist only to tickle our funny bone. The genre has survived countless decades and evolved as tastes have changed. Comedy actors come and go. They last as long as they do not get stale or as long as they can continue to push the envelope of bad taste without going completely overboard. Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Ferrell is one of the latest comedic actors to strike a chord with moviegoers. He has been very successful, but with "Blades of Glory," it is starting to become questionable as to whether he is pushing the envelope of bad taste or simply pushing envelopes, parcels and oversized packages of bad taste.

In "Blades of Glory," Will Ferrell teams up with acquired taste Jon Heder and attacks the art of figure skating. NASCAR was not safe from his stereotyping and over-the-top humor and the questionable sexuality of male figure skaters comes under a full assault from Ferrell and Heder in this funny, but intelligence insulting film. "Blades of Glory" features cameos from numerous luminaries of the figure skating world. Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming, Nancy Kerrigan and countless other familiar faces of American Olympic skating past grace the screen for a moment or two. These appearances show the support the skating community has given this little comedy, but this is surprising considering the material. The film takes routine jabs at homosexuality among skaters and even pokes fun at the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding controversy a few years ago. I guess any publicity is good publicity.

Ferrell is Chazz Michael Michaels, a skater of supposedly incredible sexuality who brings fire and passion to his routines and gyrates more commonly than Michael Jackson and adds crotch grabs and pelvic thrusts to his repertoire of perfect score moves on the ice. He came up through the underground ice skating circuit of Detroit, where I assume he had to battle Eminem for the right to be the baddest skater that side of Eight Mile Road. Will Ferrell is typical Will Ferrell in this role. He uses his happily rotund figure to poke fun at himself and at the over-stereotyped characters that populate his films. There is absolutely nothing sexy about Chazz and his routines are certainly less than stellar. As you watch "Blades of Glory," you simply understand that Ferrell is a man who always plays characters who simply don't fit, but this is the brilliance of his humor.

"Napoleon Dynamite's" Jon Heder is Chazz's rival Jimmy MacElroy. MacElroy was adopted as a child prodigy by billionaire Darren MacElroy (William Fichtner) when the rich sports fanatic adopted as many potential sports great orphans as he could find. MacElroy has every benefit that limitless funds can buy him. He has a capable coach (Craig T. Nelson) and has had the best facilities and teachers that money could buy. MacElroy is effeminate and the exact opposite of the sexual monster called Chazz. He truly is the Tiny Tim of the skating world and a line of dialogue in the film certainly helps emphasize that point. Everything that Chazz is not can be found in MacElroy. Whereas Will Ferrell has brought laughter in overstatement, Jon Heder is a comedic actor that excels in the understatement. "Napoleon Dynamite" and "The Bench Warmers" were too films where the dufus characters portrayed by Heder were funny because they were completely absent of any redeeming qualities, skills or intelligence. He brings that magic to Jimmy MacElroy.

When the two skaters score a tie during some World Championships, they are both awarded gold medals. Darren MacElroy is far from satisfied at this result, although Jimmy is certainly pleased. However, neither Jimmy nor Chazz can share a podium for the few minutes of the medal ceremony and a brawl breaks out between the two. This lands them into a courtroom where the dignitaries of the skating community hand them a lifetime ban from skating competitions. Chazz takes a role in a child skating show and is the evil wizard that spends as much time behind the bottle as he does behind the mask and eventually loses his job during a drunken and vomit filled performance. Jimmy has not skated, but works poorly as a skating store clerk and cannot even comfortably fit the skates on a young girl.

Eventually, a crazed fan of Jimmy's, Hector (Nick Swardson), explains to Jimmy that he can return to skating by changing divisions and becoming a doubles act. Jimmy goes to the skating show where Chazz has recently lost his employment and looks to hire a female partner in order to make the upcoming championships and make the return to the sport he loves. During this visit, Jimmy and Chazz again come face-to-face and another fight ensues. The result of this fight is that the Coach (Nelson) sees the video and comes up with the hare-brained idea that perhaps Jimmy and Chazz can make a formidable skating team and return both men to the glory they previously shared as rivals, but this time around do so as partners in a sport where two male partners are unheard of.

The plot moves along and Chazz and Jimmy soon become friends. They are two complete opposites, but discover that each possesses qualities that can help the other grow to be a better skater and a better man. This lands Jimmy in a relationship with the younger sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer) of their two biggest rivals; the Van Waldenberg twins Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild (Amy Poehler). The Van Waldenberg twins fear the partnership of Chazz and Jimmy and set up young Katie to bring a rift between the pair and stop any chance that the unlikely duo have of winning the championship. Fairchild and Stranz make Tonya Harding look like a schoolgirl, but donning "Tron"-like outfits finds the two come out on top.

As I mentioned earlier in this review, "Blades of Glory" insults the intelligence of the viewer. The characters, situation, dialogue and pretty much every other element of the film is so unbelievable and unlikely that you start to feel a little guilty in laughing at a film that is assuming its audience is so dumb and stupid that nobody will care. This film is more absurd than "Dumb and Dumber," but I have to admit that I laughed throughout the film. I felt it was stupid. I felt it was absurd. However, I felt it was consistently funny enough in its execution that I didn't mind being insulted all that much. The homosexual humor is well done, but the crotch shots taken in the film look horribly painful. This is not a great comedy, but Ferrell's style works perfectly in this film and you shouldn't feel too badly about laughing as you watch the film.

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder are as much opposites in life as they are in this film. They are two men who have completely different styles and approaches to making people laugh; just as their characters have different approaches in scoring with the judges. Of course, the style is that Chazz sleeps with the judges and Jimmy tries to be a beautiful peacock. I really do not feel this movie would succeed at all if it were not for its two stars. The supporting cast is fine as well. Jenna Fischer is a lovely young lady who does naïve well. Craig T. Nelson is Coach. He was "Coach" on TV and he is Coach here. Any movie where you need a coach should have Craig T. Nelson. When you combine two actors who are the exact chemistry needed for their characters, you typically have a good chance at winning the gold. I'd give this film a bronze, but it still takes home a medal.

Video:
"Blades of Glory" is released day and date with the HD-DVD version of the film. As I write the video review portion for this film, a skunk has just created a stink outside my window. Although not a complete omen as to the visual quality of this 1.85:1 anamorphic production, it isn't a beautiful thing to behold and neither is the smell of the skunk. On DVD, "Blades of Glory" looks washed out and somewhat soft in detail. The entire film seems to have a minor amount of haze that takes away from the otherwise rich colors. Whites are overblown and blacks are not as strong as they should be. Having compared a few scenes with the HD-DVD release, it appears to be a problem with the DVD release, as the black levels are stronger and colors are richer. Detail also suffers, with some of the scoreboards being difficult to read on standard definition. This isn't a bad looking film and it is far from being a subpar DVD release, but it doesn't look like a film that is as recent in vintage as "Blades of Glory." The positives of the release are that film grain is mostly absent and the source materials appear to have been pristine. Perhaps I'm getting spoiled with high definition, but I felt this title was not as strong as other recent Paramount releases on our beloved DVD format. The skunk had nothing to do with my opinion.

Sound:
I sometimes feel like a broken record when I defend the uninspired soundtrack of a comedy because of the nature of a comedy. Thankfully, "Blades of Glory" is one of the better comedies I've heard in a while and I don't have to defend the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack because of uninspired sound design. "Blades of Glory" sounds far better on DVD than it looks. From the sound of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations" to a few other numbers, the song selections are strong and resonate through each of the channels. Although rear surrounds are used sparingly, they carry a few nice effects into the rears. The sound of the blades chewing up the ice and cutting gracefully across the frozen surface makes me miss playing ice hockey with their clean and realistic sound. A few hard bumps in the film provide enough bass to wake the subwoofer up. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Compared to many other comedies, "Blades of Glory" is one of the best sounding funny films. In addition to the English 5.1 mix, French and Spanish tracks are provided in the six channel format. Subtitles are provided in all three languages.

Extras:
Paramount has provided a nice number of extras for "Blades of Glory," although I can still smell the skunk. No commentary track is provided or other feature that plays during the feature presentation, but the menu accessible supplements are often as funny as the film itself. Return to Glory: The Making of Blades (14:49) is an EPK styled documentary that takes a look at the reasons and work behind the film. Ben Stiller and the two directors of Josh Gordon and Will Speck are responsible for this film. In case you wanted to know. This is a typical feeling documentary, but does point out the built in comedy of the skating world. Celebrities on Thin Ice (6:06) looks at the two stars learning to ice skate and do some of the moves with or without wires through the film. This little feature actually impressed me.

Next up is a look at the costumes and Cooler Than Ice: The Super-Sexy Costumes of Skating (4:39) is a short look at the costumes in the film and the unitards and other costumes of the real skating world. Arnett & Poehler: A Family Affair (5:51) looks at the real-life married couple and how they worked to be cozy brother and sister in the film. This little interview segment was not serious and quite funny. 20 Questions with Scott Hamilton (5:01) may not pack twenty questions into its short five minutes of length, but does take a deep look at skating legend Scott Hamilton. Scott Hamilton is a very personable man and I enjoyed this candid chat with the DVD's producer. Yes, there was a Brian Boitano question.

The second page of supplements contains Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan (3:24) and a few other extras. I like Nick Swardson, but this feature as him in character is a bit kooky. What is really scary is that there are actually people like him out there. Even scarier is the skunk smell that has not subsided. Four Deleted Scenes (9:06) adds more time with the Van Waldenbergs as they watch the Katie video. More Jenna Fischer screen time is always a good thing. The attraction of Katie to Jimmy is explored in this scene, as well as the love affair between the twins. A scene between Chazz and his comb, the unused theme song and a great scene with Hector rounds out the deleted scenes. Speaking of the song, the Music Video "Blades of Glory" by Bo Bice is up next. A Gag Reel (2:09) looks at various skating mishaps during the filming. Alternate Takes (8:40) are quite funny and a little more off color than anything used in the film. Too bad some of them were not used in the film. The Limp Bizkit moment was great. One snippet found Will Ferrell singing "That Smell." Did I mention my eyes watered?

Three supplements are found on a third page and a few Previews that were hard to miss when the disc booted up. The Moviefone Unscripted With Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and Will Arnett (9:54) is a very nice interview with the three funnymen from the film. I felt it was a little too short. I do enjoy these Moviefone Unscripted features, but always feel they are way too short. I'm sure these three had more than ten minutes of something to say. Still funny, but short. MTV Interstitials (1:40) has a big word in its title, but contains three of them. Think of these as phony commercials and they are funny, but the continual theme of ‘shortness' comes into play again. Finally, a Photo Gallery ends the list of offerings.

Closing Comments:
I have to admit that I enjoyed "Blades of Glory," but I must also state that I felt insulted by much of the situations in the film. It just seemed to silly at times to take either seriously or humorously. What makes the film work is the combination of Will Ferrell and Jon Heder. They are opposites in mannerisms, comedic style and approach. They are opposites in the film. Can you guess who gets to be ‘the girl' in the film? "Blades of Glory" may stoop to new lows in intelligence, but for some reason, Ferrell continues to be funny. I don't know how much longer he has as the ‘it' comedy actor, but we should enjoy the ride while it still lasts. The DVD release is a mixed bag. The picture is passable, but does do full justice to the great colors contained in the film. The sound was better than expected. Supplements are not the longest, but they are plentiful enough to keep my interest for about as long as they deserved to hold my interest.

Ratings

Video
7
Audio
8
Extras
6
Film Value
6