Saturday, February 17, 2018

Classics: A Review of Blades of Glory By Lauren Ennis

The Olympic Games are an event that has become synonymous with excellence, team work, and overcoming the odds. Perhaps no Olympic team has defied expectations with the originality and sheer hilarity of male pair skaters Jimmy McElroy and Chaz Michael Michaels in the 2007 comedy Blades of Glory. At once an uproarious satire of Olympic sports and a valentine to sports films, Blades of Glory is a comedy that goes for the gold.

The story begins with judges’ darling Jimmy (John Heder) facing his rival, fan favorite Chaz (Will Ferrell) in the Olympics. Both skaters turn in flawless performances; leaving skating’s ‘little orphan awesome’ and ‘lone wolf’ in a tie for the gold. Outraged at the prospect of sharing the title, they begin bickering in the midst of the medal ceremony in what escalates to a brawl that leaves both permanently banned from male figure skating. Years later, both hit hard times as Jimmy struggles to make ends meet selling skate equipment, while Chaz battles alcoholism and sex addiction as he drifts between kiddie skating shows. When Jimmy’s former coach, Robert (Craig T Nelson) approaches them with the unorthodox plan of returning to skating as a pair team, Jimmy and Chaz scoff at the idea. The lure of the ice proves too strong for both skaters to resist, however, as they embark upon an Olympic journey that is easily one of the most outrageous in sports history.

Through its by turns slapstick and sentimental approach, the film captures figure skating at its most ridiculous, while simultaneously showcasing the skill, teamwork, and perseverance that have helped make it an Olympic fan favorite. The gags surrounding the extravagant costumes, dramatic music, and over-the-top artistic gestures that have becomes skating hallmarks will have even casual viewers laughing out loud. Similarly, the references to the incomprehensible scoring system, and skating greats past and present will have ice aficionados roaring with laughter. Even in the mist of its most outlandish shenanigans, however, the film’s humor avoids attacking the sport by also paying tribute to its most admirable qualities as well as those of its competitors. This homage to all things ice shines through in the film’s depiction of the grueling training that athletes undergo, the pressures that they face, and the devoted fans that they win over. The film’s highest tribute to the sport by far, however, is its surprisingly inspiring portrayal of the bond between Jimmy and Chaz. Through its unique approach, the film merges the very best in comedy and sports cinema for a viewing experience that is truly glorious.

While the film’s premise made its script ripe with comedic potential, it is the expert performances of the cast that brings its slapstick world of sports to riotous life. Craig T Nelson is excellent in his straight-man role as dedicated coach, Robert. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are wonderfully wicked as Jimmy and Chaz’s greatest rivals, the creepily close Van Waldenberg siblings. Jenna Fischer turns in an impressive transition from television to film as the Van Waldenberg’s conflicted younger sister, Katie. Nick Swardson is endlessly entertaining in his role as the duo’s biggest fan/stalker, Hector. Even while surrounded by superb performances, the film belongs to Ferrell and Heder as ultimate odd couple Jimmy and Chaz. Heder’s wide-eyed innocence is a perfect complement to Ferrell’s bad-boy machismo. Together, the two make a comedy team that is unbeatable on or off the ice.

Through its hilarious send-up of all things figure skating, Blades of Glory is an Olympic level comedy. The film’s combination of an uproarious script and expertly comedic performances ensure that it has plenty to offer both comedy devotees and skating connoisseurs alike. For a winning comedy, hit the ice with Chaz and Jimmy in Blades of Glory.  

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