Friday, March 30, 2007

FILM Blades of Glory

It took me a long time to warm up to Will Ferrell, though I still can’t bear to watch reruns of that damn cheerleader sketch on Saturday Night Live and I haven’t yet seen Talledega Nights, but I must admit that I really enjoyed Blades of Glory. Ferrell is funny in it as the hyper-macho figure skater who is blissfully unaware that figure skating is the most feminine of the sports. The fact that he teams up with the most feminine of the male figure skaters (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder) is inevitable.

There are three reasons why this movie works so well.

1. Craig
2. T.
3. Nelson

As the supporting “coach” character, Craig T. Nelson is given the difficult task of selling the premise. Why would he encourage the return of two egomaniacal rivals fallen on hard times, much less coach them? The answer happens in a pivotal scene where he’s watching TV and sees a news report that has footage of the two skaters fighting backstage at a children’s skate show. He watches the fight, he pauses his TiVo, he rewinds, he watches, he rewinds, he pauses again. Though it’s never explained in dialog, we see exactly what he sees: during the fight, the two naturally perform lifts and throws that will translate perfectly onto the ice.

Nelson inhabits his coach character with the intensity of a mad scientist. It’s as though he doesn’t realize he’s a supporting character, not that it would matter to him anyway. I would totally watch a spin-off project with him; maybe not a feature film, but certainly a half-hour profile of the character for Comedy Central.

The rest of the movie (the stuff without Craig T. Nelson) also works. The humor grows organically out of the characters instead of through pre-imagined situations that they had to shoehorn the characters into. Heder’s Jimmy MacElroy has the benefit of a backstory (he was adopted by a man who raises Olympic medalists), and even Ferrell’s macho, womanizing, drunken, innately talented Chazz Michael Michaels has more depth than you would expect. And the pacing never slows, which smooths over some of the bits that don’t quite work like a zamboni over center ice.