Too Little to Skate

Blades of Glory falls flat in more ways than one.

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 28, 2007

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Blades of Glory
D+
Director: Will Speck, Josh Gordon
Starring: Jon Heder, Will Ferrell
Opens Fri., March 30

Why is it, in just about every comedy these days, whenever an unattractive male actor is desperate for a laugh, he invariably begins licking his fingertips and stroking his nipples? Am I missing something here?

I first noticed this practice during the original Austin Powers movie--you know, the funny one that had all the jokes they kept repeating verbatim in the sequels until you resented ever having laughed at them in the first place. At the time it struck me as just the kind of outre, grotesque behavior that Mike Myers' character would assume was seductive, and I probably laughed very hard. (Frankly, it's been so long since I found Myers amusing, it's difficult to remember back that far.) But since then, this bizarre movement has somehow become endemic.

Jim Carrey, Jack Black, Will Ferrell--if a scene stalls, they can't seem to keep away from their own nipples. It's become comedy shorthand.

Honestly, has anybody ever done this, like, ever? Men's nipples are decorative at best. The most they're really good for is to tell us when we're cold. I don't get out much, but I've seen my share of pornography (probably your share too), and for the life of me I still can't recall glimpsing any male autoerotic mammary stimulation anywhere outside of bad Hollywood comedies.

But it's somehow become the new hack staple, the physical equivalent of complaining about airplane food. These days when I see a comedian going for his man-teets, I know he's got nothing else on the bench.

Will Ferrell plays with his nipples a lot in Blades of Glory, a shoddy little throwaway from directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon, a couple of advertising dudes who've been making a lot of Hollywood waves lately, ever since they got their commercials about the Geico cavemen sold as a TV pilot. (This is the kind of development that makes you wonder why Budweiser spokes-dog Spuds MacKenzie and "Where's the beef?" lady Clara Peller never got their own sitcom back in the '80s. My only hope is that Gilbert Gottfried's Aflac duck will eventually show up and tell the "Aristocrats" joke.)

Ferrell stars as figure-skating supernova Chazz Michael Michaels, a handle the filmmakers seem to find a heck of a lot more amusing than we do. He's the kind of oversexed rebel who stages his routines to Billy Squier's "The Stroke," gallivanting around the ice beneath a hairdo that looks remarkably like my own, except his is funny on purpose.

Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder recycles that same performance yet again, breathing through his mouth and flinging his gangly body all over the place as skating prodigy Jimmy MacElroy. A medal ceremony dustup--that really should've been a lot more creative--gets both of them a lifetime ban from the figure-skating community, according to a jury led by Nancy Kerrigan, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano and Peggy Fleming--all of whom appear in such awkwardly edited cameos it becomes doubtful these people were ever in the same room.

Ferrell and Heder have but one shot at redemption: to skate as a pair, enduring all sorts of snickering homophobia but still stealing the gold away from sneaky, incestuous brother-and-sister team Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (played quite capably by real-life partners Will Arnett and Amy Poehler). Any fan of Arrested Development already knows Arnett is the funniest thing since sliced eggs, and his toothy asshole smile and far-flung body movements put the rest of this cast to shame.

Speck and Gordon don't quite have a handle on how to make a movie yet, and most of Blades of Glory is recapped in heavily edited mock-TV segments. It's a shortcut that happily winnows the picture's running time down to barely an hour and a half, but leaves the entire enterprise feeling cheap and rushed. The filmmakers' reliance on highlight reels denies us a chance to fully appreciate Arnett and Poehler's interpretative reenactment of the JFK/Marilyn Monroe affair on ice--and that's just criminal.

Add in a useless subplot with Heder romancing The Office's Jenna Fischer, and you're just stuck with a whole lot of Will Ferrell nipple-play. And Lord knows we've seen enough of that already.

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