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Blades of Glory DVD Review

Blades of Glory movie poster Blades of Glory

Theatrical Release: March 30, 2007 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Directors: Will Speck, Josh Gordon

Cast: Will Ferrell (Chazz Michael Michaels), Jon Heder (Jimmy MacElroy), Will Arnett (Stranz Van Waldenberg), Amy Poehler (Fairchild Van Waldenberg), Jenna Fischer (Katie Van Waldenberg), William Fichtner (Darren MacElroy), Craig T. Nelson (Coach), Romany Malco (Jesse), Nick Swardson (Hector), Scott Hamilton (Himself - Sports Anchor), Rob Corddry (Bryce), Andy Richter (Mountie), Greg Lindsay (Mountie), Nick Jameson (PA Announcer), Tom Virtue (Floor Manager), Ben Wilson (Fox), William Daniels (Commissioner Ebbers), Zachary Ferren (Young Jimmy), Remy Girard (Father St. Pierre)

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It's been five years since Will Ferrell left the cast of "Saturday Night Live." In that period, NBC's sketch comedy series has plummeted to what appears to be an all-time creative low, but Ferrell has fared much better, developing one of the most successful movie careers among former cast members in "SNL"'s storied, 32-year history. While Ferrell has tread rather deftly from PG and even G-rated family fare to "smart" films and racy R-rated movies, his natural state would appear to be, like most of 21st century cinema's funnymen, the PG-13 comedy. That's where he's at in Blades of Glory, an ice skating farce that handily crossed the $100 million mark at North American box offices, in no small part to Ferrell's headlining presence.

Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, a cocky figure skating champion described by one announcer as a "sex tornado." Michaels' machismo, swagger, and self-cited sex addiction put him in stark contrast to Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite), a blonde mop-topped skater known for his grace and elegance on the ice.
At a competition in Stockholm, after exchanging the first of many quotable barbs, Chazz and Jimmy earn tying scores, meaning they've got to share the event's gold medal. This proves to be too much for the two admired foes to handle, and a scuffle disrupts the medal ceremony, creating havoc among the winners' podiums and setting a mascot ablaze. Soon after, the rivals are handed their punishment: a lifetime ban from the sport.

Three and a half years pass and the next time we see the dueling protagonists, Chazz is playing a wizard in a children's ice show while Jimmy is working in a skate shop, with neither enjoying high job satisfaction. Their reunion leads to another tussle, but that's just the thing that gives Jimmy's old coach (Craig T. Nelson, "Coach") an idea for capitalizing on a loophole that allows the banned skaters to participate in pairs competition. Jimmy and Chazz are to become the world's first same-sex pairs team in skating history. The athletes' clashing personalities yield no shortage of laughs as their coach insists that they live together with him, enabling ordinary interactions to mine humor beyond the goofy, tense practice sessions.

Sharing a gold medal isn't easy for "Little Orphan Awesome" Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) and "Sex Tornado" Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell). Coach (Craig T. Nelson) is firm and clear: In order to skate together, Jimmy and Chazz will have to practice together, live together, file income taxes together and so on.

The central premise -- two straight guys skating together -- gives the movie plenty of comedic fuel, but Blades of Glory provides a great deal more than the expected awkward positions sight gags that were promoted. Ferrell and Heder realize their high collective potential with terrific comic chemistry; Ferrell's macho energy is perfectly balanced by Heder's believable innocence. Happily, the two effective leads are surrounded by a great amount of talent in a bizarre array of colorful roles who keep spirits running high in peripheral content. Husband-wife TV comedy veterans Will Arnett ("Arrested Development") and Amy Poehler ("Saturday Night Live") have fun in the roles of Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, a flashy opposing American pairs team, who are way too close for a brother and sister. Jenna Fischer ("The Office") does well as their nice, neglected, normal sister who seems like the perfect match for Jimmy, despite being forced into acting as pawn/spy for her siblings. And no stranger to his role of Coach, Craig T. Nelson is likable as the seasoned man leading (and more or less parenting) the immature heroes.

Even smaller, less remarkable roles are capably handled by familiar faces: William Daniels ("Boy Meets World") strikes authority as the punitive commissioner, Rob Corddry ("The Daily Show") is Chazz's smarmy children's ice theatre boss, Luke Wilson plays a counselor at the Colorado Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting, longtime Conan O'Brien sidekick Andy Richter shows up late as a Mountie. In the showy role of Jimmy's psychotic obsessive fan, the generally amusing Nick Swardson hits most of the right notes. As the relentless champion-raiser who raised Jimmy from youth, William Fichtner continues to show a flair for playing loathsome characters, even with limited screentime.

Genuine fans of ice skating should be pleased to know that though their sport is being sent up, it's in a fairly respectful manner. Testament to that is the sheer number of famous American skaters (a class larger than you think) -- Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano, Sasha Cohen -- who appear as themselves, adding credibility. The laughs don't come at the Olympic sport's expense but rather at the frequent extravagance of performers such as the spectacle-lending fictional ones on display. Those who can't stand ice skating will be pleased to know that the sequences depicting it are kept in moderation. Unlike a sports comedy that spends most of its time in an arena and nearly all its final act on "the big game/race/match", Blades is much too smart to take this hackneyed approach. When it does take to the ice, it's anything but half-hearted; bold music, bolder costumes, and apparent athletic accuracy all help to keep the plot-specific sports material funny and on a plane consistent with the rest of the movie.

TV comedy veterans (and married couple) Amy Poehler and Will Arnett play the incestuous-seeming Van Waldenberg siblings, Fairchild and Stranz. If there was any doubt beforehand, the awkward chemistry between Jimmy and Katie (Jenna Fischer) seems to seal the deal that they're perfect for each other.

Blades' appeal even transcends its stellar hilarity quotient in unexpected ways, boasting a palpable production design, compelling settings, nice photography, and a refreshing aversion to standard formula. Such features aren't often found or noted in a mainstream American comedy and surely, they'll be missed or unappreciated by a sizable portion of the viewership. But in my two times seeing the flick, I've just found so much to enjoy. While most sports comedies are able to provide some level of diversion, Blades supplies more than classification among the genre's other hits (like Ferrell's underwhelming Talladega Nights and Adam Sandler's two subpar football films) would suggest.

Of course, not everything about the film is pitch-perfect. There's a fairly shocking joke that the MPAA calls "a comic violent image" and were it seen in closer and more realistic detail, it'd border on traumatic. Some may object to the sexual material, which is nearly entirely verbal and adds a layer to Ferrell's character that is more or less essential. Without this angle, Ferrell might just be channeling his Neil Diamond impression from "SNL." Those with less of a taste for contemporary "smart comedy" may find the proceedings simply too weird all-around to invest in.

Blades of Glory marks the feature film debut for directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck as well as writers Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky, and story-credited Busy Philipps. They've dabbled in TV commercials, "King of the Hill" episodes, and in Philipps' case, some noteworthy acting before. This movie's many charms, however, grant promise to the entire group's futures behind the camera. If they can take what could easily be a one-joke concept and turn it into this much fun, I'm interested to see what else they can do, whether for Ferrell or other proficient comedians.

Buy Blades of Glory (Widescreen Edition) on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish),
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 (Reduced from $29.99)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps
Also Available on HD DVD

VIDEO and AUDIO

DreamWorks spent an estimated $60 million to shoot Blades of Glory last summer, so it will only come as a surprise to the most inexperienced of DVD collectors that the film looks and sounds quite terrific. As hinted at earlier, the photography is rich, warm, and varied and the disc's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer preserves the visuals in all their glory. Scrutinizers and those with wall-sized displays may object to some slight grain, but for everyone else, this solid presentation can be easily marked digital perfection. (A reformatted fullscreen presentation is sold separately and while it probably won't wreak havoc on compositions, it's still bound to be inferior to this reviewed version that approximates the theatrical aspect ratio.)

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and though the opening moments suggest a subdued mix, that changes pretty quickly as stadium settings are conjured with a good use of all the speakers. From Billy Squier's "The Stroke" to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations" to Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing", there are some fine memory-sparking song selections that the very young might consider "oldies." The music is nicely conveyed and there are no noticeable drawbacks to the audio at large.

Will Ferrell looks displeased with the unseen interviewer's preparation in "Return of Glory: The Making of 'Blades'." In costume as John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, husband and wife Will Arnett and Amy Poehler are funny but odd in "A Family Affair." Nick Swardson's obsessive character gets to talk about his passion for Jimmy MacElroy in "Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

"Return to Glory: The Making of Blades" (14:45) starts as a genuine production documentary with the actors merely having fun with questions. By the end, the questions themselves are funny as an unseen and unrehearsed interviewer
draws varying responses from the in-costume cast members. It may not say a lot about the movie's creation, but it does set the tone for an entertaining platter of bonus features.

Five shorter featurettes follow. The six-minute "Celebrities on Thin Ice" discusses the challenges of teaching the actors to ice skate and in a choreographed manner, with most of the leads sounding off on their prior experience and production adventures. "Cooler Than Ice: The Super-Sexy Costumes of Skating" (4:35) covers the various outfits of the film, what inspired them, and what they say about the characters who wear them.

"Arnett & Poehler: A Family Affair" (5:45) is a largely tongue-in-cheek interview with Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, who discuss the production and their place among husband-wife comedy teams, among other things. "20 Questions with Scott Hamilton" (5:00) lives up to its title, as a funny DVD producer sits down to ask the Olympic gold medalist skater increasingly bizarre questions. The weird but diverting "Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan" (3:20) spends more time with Nick Swardson's obsessive supporting character, as he shows off his Jimmy MacElroy scrapbook and collection of Jimmy MacElroy personal items.

In perhaps the most fun of the deleted scenes and again in the music video, Jon Heder and Will Ferrell sing title song "Blades of Glory" in character. Bo Bice does some shouting in his music video for end credits tune "Blades of Glory." Looking a bit like David Hasselhoff during an off-the-floor dinner, Will Ferrell rifts at length on Chazz's desperate phone calls to Jimmy in the Alternate Takes montage.

Running nine minutes altogether, four deleted scenes are included. There's an interesting extra minute with the Van Waldenberg siblings and an unfunny new appearance by Hector. More substantial and remarkable are a scene where Chazz offers Jimmy his treasured illegal brush (which sets up a pretty cheesy childhood flashback) and a musical moment when Chazz (wielding a strap-on keyboard) is joined by Jimmy for a singing of title song "Blades of Glory."

If not for the previous section, those who aren't fans of fourth season "American Idol" runner-up Bo Bice would still have reason to enjoy his music video for "Blades of Glory" (4:40). In addition to the obligatory movie clips and footage of Bice performing and playing piano, it contains some of the deleted footage of Ferrell and Heder singing (actually, they're mostly made to look like they're lip-synching).

A short Gag Reel (2:07) provides some amusement in the way of skating hijinks and unscripted funnies, though less than you might expect. Many more laughs are to be had in a collection of Alternate Takes (8:38), which include strange and witty variations on existing material. It's almost all Ferrell, who rifts on Chazz's desperate phone calls, the one song he insists they perform to, his escalator banter with Arnett, and his anatomical phrasing.

Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, and Jon Heder volley banter during the included episode of Moviefone's "Unscripted." Based on where he's pointing, Will Ferrell must have thought he was promoting "Balls of Fury" instead of "Blades of Glory" in this MTV interstitial. The three Costume photo galleries sometimes look more like a book on regrettable '80s fashions, as on this loud Jon Heder get-up.

Next up is an entertaining installment of Moviefone's web series "Unscripted" (9:50) with Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, and Will Arnett. The three actors joke around while answering e-mail questions, and the movie clips wisely have been lost.
It just makes sense to include a fun licensed extra like this, which gives exposure to the source and entertains with no extra effort required.

A trio of 30-second MTV Interstitials emulate hip, busily-shot vignettes that a present-day sports broadcast might string together to profile an athlete and inspire. They're pretty funny.

Over 150 stills are somewhat arbitrarily divided into five photo galleries, three of which showcase costumes and look fit for any ice skating clothes catalog.

Upon inserting the disc, trailers play for Jerry Seinfeld's The Bee Movie, Transformers, Shrek the Third, and Will Ferrell's Paramount and DreamWorks movies on DVD. The 7 minutes of promos can also be played from the Special Features menu's "Previews" listing. Sadly, Blades' own theatrical trailer is missing, though it can be found ("coming to theaters" changed to "now on DVD") on the concurrently-issued Night at the Roxbury DVD re-release.

The animated main menu aspires to the sports broadcast look of much of the film's ice skating sequence, with a lengthy intro then giving way to a stadium in which a montage of highlights is backdrop for a variety of green-screen foreground antics featuring the characters.

Chazz, Jimmy, and their coach become a minor media sensation for the revolutionary fact that they have "matching junk", as Chazz puts it. The unlikely partners, Fire and Ice, strike a pose at the start of their debut skate.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Energetic, clever, and very funny, Blades of Glory is one of the best comedies I've encountered this year. Those who enjoy Will Ferrell's character-driven humor should definitely approve of this flick, which pools his top-notch work with an excellent supporting cast and a sharp, well-structured story. Even those who aren't a part of the SNL alum's substantial fanbase would be wise to give this a chance; it's more on par with Anchorman than his less consistent, more recent sports-centered films Kicking & Screaming and Talladega Nights. In short, if you can appreciate a comedy that's both narrative and filled with humor, you're unlikely to be disappointed by this one.

Paramount/DreamWorks' DVD pretty much meets one's expectations head on, with a pretty robust and entertaining slate of extras leaving room for improvement but complementing the film nicely. The disc also, of course, loses no points for its stellar picture and sound. In short, it'd be one that many will consider worth adding to the collection and it should get enough play to justify a discounted release date buy rather than waiting for a price drop or rare sale.

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Reviewed August 24, 2007.



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