Double axel, Triple putz

by Sara Nicole Miller

As if the homoeroticism of male figure skating hasn’t been lampooned enough, Will Ferrell has chosen the illustrious sport as the subject in his latest Will-plays-an-annoying-frat-dude-in-some-idiosyncratic-career film, “Blades of Glory.”

“Blades of Glory”
STARRING: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett
DIRECTED BY: Will Speck and Josh Gordon
SHOWING AT: Area theaters

The tale begins modestly, outside a country orphanage, atop two ice-skating rinks, separating the real men from the, well, men who like figure skating. The lone, blonde-haired boy spinning double axels to Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro” is a young version of the great “Galloping Peacock” Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder of “Napoleon Dynamite”). Plucked out of the orphanage by a racehorse breeder (William Fichtner) and crafted into a figure-skating prodigy, MacElroy soon becomes skating’s “Little Orphan Awesome.”

Enter rival Chazz Michael Michaels, skating’s overtly hetero swashbuckling buffoon, sporting cowboy chaps and the libido of a springtime chimpanzee. The two exchange some harsh words, but it isn’t until they both win the gold medal that they resort to blows on the ice.

As a consequence, the National Skating Federation strips them of their medals and bans them from skating indefinitely.

The film then skips ahead three and a half years, where the two are wallowing in their own second-hand skating-related industries: MacElroy works as a skate sharpener and shop assistant, Michaels as a wizard mascot for the children’s show called “Grublets on Ice.”

One day, MacElroy’s super fan and psychopathic stalker from his glory years tracks him down at the skate shop. The stalker informs MacElroy of a loophole in the rulebook that would allow him to compete again if he joined the pairs division.

Reinvigorated by the prospect of a figure skating career, MacElroy goes to the “Grublets on Ice” training complex to search for a female partner where he and Michaels bump into each other for the first time since the altercation. Again they bust out into a quarrel, which a news station captures on camera. MacElroy’s old coach (Craig T. Nelson of “Coach,” no less) sees the fight broadcast on television – complete with figure-skating spins, whirls and hurls – and, thus, their fate as an “unlikely” pair is sealed in the stars.

We can all call the rest. The mismatched pair, after some bumps and bruises and a few life lessons in friendship (and the woes of sex addiction), compete in the World Championships in Montreal against a nefarious (and incestuous) brother-sister team, Fairchild (Amy Poehler) and Stranz (Will Arnett).

MacElroy and Michaels, now team Fire and Ice, keep one trick up their sleeve: the Iron Lotus. The deal-breaking move could, if properly executed, seal their victory. However, if botched, it could result in beheading by ice skate blade.

The film, with its impressive and wide-spanning cast – from Nancy Kerrigan to current SNL cast member Amy Poehler – does manage to yank out a few giggles, but mostly because of the many ways in which figure skating moves can, from certain angles, look mighty copulatory. The one-dimensional absurdity of Ferrell’s character is made of the same stuff as his characters of movies past: verbal diarrhea, rampant sexual machismo and a supersized belief in his own agency. In the end, it is Heder’s character that comes out with the most substance, even if he does embody all the stock stereotypes.

Ferrell’s heart is in the right place, but “Blades of Glory” falls victim to the ultimate comedic trap: painstaking formulaic convention. At best, the film doles out an easily digestible, eight-dollar laugh. At worst, the film’s floppy conventions harden the rigidity of masculinity and pigeonhole a sport’s essence into one lousy film. And that’s something that all the Zambonis in the world couldn’t smooth over.