February 8, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 45°F


Comedian continues sports parody crusade

Abbott and Costello met monsters, Ernest went places, Chevy Chase took his family on vacations. And now it’s official: the Will Ferrell formula for comedy success is parodying strange occupations.

Following in the footsteps of “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” Ferrell’s newest comedy knows better than to mess with a good thing. “Blades of Glory,” aka “Will Ferrell on Ice,” is packed with loads of improvisation, slapstick and a cavalcade of comedian cameos. Like its two predecessors, the results are not comedic brilliance, but more than enough laughs to justify its existence.

It’s amazing that it took until this year for an epic figure skating parody to be made. The sport’s absurd excesses and eccentricities make it such perfect comedy fodder that there was almost no way for Ferrell to fail with the right cast and story.

Story, not screenplay, is what makes “Blades of Glory” a success. If the film had been shot word-for-word off the screenplay, it would probably be a 15-minute film. But once Ferrell and the right comedic foil come together on screen, in all their makeup and costuming, to paraphrase “Field of Dreams”: If you film it, jokes will come.

Ferrell’s foil in “Blades of Glory” is an eerily androgynous Jon Heder, who plays the delicate professional skater Jimmy MacElroy, a flamboyant combination of Clay Aiken and Brian Boitano. His archrival is Ferrell’s Chazz Michael Michaels, a cocky airhead not unlike, well, Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby.

After MacElroy and Michaels tie at an Olympics-esque figure skating event, their sissy fight at the winners’ podium leads to permanent disqualification from competitive skating — or so they think.

In one of those zany comedy loopholes that usually result in someone having to dress like a woman, MacElroy and Michaels discover that they are banned from individual figure skating, but not pairs. Thus, the skating world’s first male-male pairs team is born.

As pairs skaters, Michaels and MacElroy’s new rivals are the foreign skating siblings Stranz (Will Arnett) and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Amy Poehler). As over-the-top villains go, Arnett and Poehler are first rate, bringing a strange combination of ABBA and Marcia/Greg Brady sexual tension to their characters.

The Van Waldenbergs also have a neglected sibling, Amy Van Waldenberg, played by the lovely Jenna Fischer from NBC’s “The Office.” Aside from being MacElroy’s obligatory love interest, and being very funny, Fischer is so hot in this movie that she instantly secures her position as the most heavenly nerd-goddess since Dana Scully from “The X-Files.”

Of course, the film’s most heated chemistry always comes from MacElroy and Michaels. With surprising maturity, Ferrell and Heder play off their characters’ “Ambiguously Gay Duo” relationship without relying on tired, loosely homophobic gay-panic jokes. As Ferrell and Heder pirouette and triple-axle their way through Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,” the laughs come from the sheer absurdity of the performance, not some squeamish “Oh no! What if they think we’re gay?” paranoia.

Despite the predictability and haphazard story setup, it’s hard to call Ferrell’s formula tired because he hasn’t made an outright failure with it yet. And with the zany worlds of professional ballroom dancing, reality-TV hosts, taxidermy and porn conventions all still painfully untapped, it’s safe to assume Ferrell and his frat-pack cohorts will be at it for years to come.

“Blades of Glory” was written by Craig and Jeff Cox, and directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck.

“Blades of Glory” received three out of four stars.