What are two hockey pucks doing in a film about figure skating? Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as rivals-turned-partners in "Blades of Glory," a movie that was a hit as soon as the posters went up. Ferrell in a body stocking. Heder in a bleached-blond hairdo the likes of which haven't been seen since "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
What are two hockey pucks doing in a film about figure skating? Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as rivals-turned-partners in “Blades of Glory,” a movie that was a hit as soon as the posters went up. Ferrell in a body stocking. Heder in a bleached-blond hairdo the likes of which haven’t been seen since “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” There may be an overabundance of pain jokes, crotch jokes and painful crotch jokes, but at the end of the program, this Will Speck-Josh Gordon-directed farce is the triple axel of comedy. Even if the heroes do fall down a lot.
There may be no aspect of modern life that eventually won’t be sat on by the professionally ungainly Ferrell, who has wrapped his half-shaved bear of a self around Christmas (“Elf”), TV news (“Anchorman”) and NASCAR (“Talladega Nights”) over the past few years. (He will turn his dubious attentions toward the NBA in the upcoming “Semi-Pro.”) Meanwhile, squatting upon the seemingly genteel world of ice skating, Ferrell is in his element: a walking (gliding) contradiction, the personification of physical unease dropped into the world’s most graceful sport.
Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, the bad boy of the rink, an overly oiled sex machine who resembles a late-era Jim Morrison and needs only a mid-rink dance pole to complete his mutation from skater to stripper. Jimmy MacElroy (Heder), his chief rival, is his polar opposite: As a child prodigy, Jimmy was adopted by skating promoter Darren MacElroy (a marvelously unctuous William Fichtner) and raised to be an “uber-skater,” whose entire act is so effeminate it can only raise a sneer from Chazz.
Naturally, they will become partners, in a “Zoolander”-inspired parade of posing, spinning, camel-ing and lutzing, but only after a total meltdown. Having tied for gold at a (fictitious) world competition, Chazz and Jimmy jostle, shove and topple off the podium, wrestling around on the ice, to the horror of computer-multiplied thousands. Ultimately, they are banned for life by a committee that includes Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano and Nancy Kerrigan.
Chazz becomes even more of a drunk, performing in a children’s ice show and throwing up inside his costume (he’s like Bad Santa in cold storage), while Jimmy goes to work in a skate shop. They are on their way to becoming either has-beens or sports announcers when Coach (an apt name for Craig T. Nelson’s character) comes up with a scheme: The two may well be banned from men’s singles, but not from doubles. Nothing in the rules says skating partners have to be male and female, so why don’t they return to the ice as the first same-sex team on the international circuit? Holy Adam and Steve!
The conflict in the film — as if there weren’t enough already — arrives via the archly villainous and vaguely incestuous brother-sister duo of Stranz & Fairchild Van Waldenberg (real-life marrieds Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), the reigning king and queen of pairs skating. Fairchild will do anything to keep her position as empress of the ice; Stranz is too stupid to do anything but follow her lead, and further oppress their younger sister, Katie (Jenna Fischer), the good girl who becomes Jimmy’s love interest.
As good as Ferrell and Heder are, without such potent supporting characters, “Blades of Glory” would never score quite as high as it no doubt will at the box office. Nor would it succeed as well without the subtly awkward special effects — the skating, by Ferrell, Heder, Poehler and Arnett, is just this side of totally plausible. The technology undoubtedly exists to make a Teamster skate like Sasha Cohen (who has a very funny cameo), but the laughs would be lost without a certain amount of nod and wink about the relation between these actors and the ice.
The one drawback is that the implicit movie-long gag, about how ridiculous it is to watch men dance with each other, may strike some auds as one long, unspoken but obvious gay joke — and they wouldn’t be far off.
Production qualities are first-rate, and the costumes by Julie Weiss are informed by a knowledge of how ostentatious skaters’ outfits really are — her work is all the more hilarious for it.
Again, the very idea of Will Ferrell on figure skates was a high-scoring concept before it ever left the pitch meeting. Don’t expect much, except laughs.