by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Blades of Glory & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & U & lt;/span & nlike most 18- to-35-year-olds, I don't think Will Ferrell is God's gift to comedy. I don't really think he's very funny at all. I liked him in Old School and for fleeting periods in Anchorman.
Similarly, unlike most zero-to-75-year-olds, I didn't like Napoleon Dynamite. Indeed, the only things I hated more than Napoleon Dynamite, the movie, was Napoleon Dynamite, the character and its actor, the stomach-turning John Heder. His character in Napoleon wasn't an act. He was just being himself. The unerring lens of time demonstrates this. It shows that the vacant stare Heder wore as Napoleon wasn't a put-on. Neither was the gawky, open-mouthed buck-tooth-ishness. Four features after the unlikely film that made him an unlikely star, his lips are still nauseatingly moist at all times. It's like he finds roles uniquely suited to his exact disposition. In Blades of Glory, for example, the wet lip thing is explained as a fondness for lip-gloss.
So we have an actor who is best in televised four-minute bursts and a kid who is best when the script calls for him to breathe moistly and deeply out of his mouth. These are formidable barriers to enjoyment, without question.
Yet there I was, enjoying.
Heder and Ferrell star as two very straight dudes from opposite ends of the (presumably short) straight figure-skating spectrum. Ferrell is a sex-crazed improviser while Heder is an innocent, robotic technician on ice. This causes friction. After a podium fight lands both lifetime bans, they're forced, by dint of wacky figure skating rules, to skate as a pair if they want to skate at all. As is to be expected, the first time we see Ferrell's cod-piece close to Heder's blank, toothy face, it's funny. The third time, the funny goes away. Fortunately, we aren't subjected to that joke many more than three times.
The chief virtue of Blades of Glory is its brevity. At barely an hour and a half long, the film has too many characters to present, sight gags to perform and skating celebrities to parade in front of the camera to assault the viewer with the same ball jokes over and over. No, that's not true. It chooses not to, to its tremendous credit. The film doesn't spend much time on training montages (the bread and butter of crappy sports comedies). It doesn't even spend much time convincing the two rivals to team up. It's got some jokes to tell and gets down to it.
That's good. If filmmakers Josh Gordon and Will Speck would have felt a strong need to flesh out the story more and connect all the dots, I imagine the committee of screenwriters who penned the film increasing the Ferrell's-package-in-Heder's-face gags exponentially.
As it is, the stars are more like ensemble players. A bulk of laughs go to Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Amy Poelher (Saturday Night Live), who play an ambiguously incestuous brother-sister pairs team. Jenna Fisher (The Office) gets to have the endearing innocence Heder is incapable of. The film blithely skips from sight gag to sex-addiction joke, pausing only momentarily on each gag, pulling the bulk of them off, and getting out before the audience realizes they're being asked to watch John Heder act. It's a neat trick. (PG-13)