Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that if your title is a play on a Bon Jovi song, at least it should probably be a good one.
Kick some ice.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; for every Will Ferrell comedy that's funny (Anchorman), he winds up making inexplicable errors in decision and judgment that end up being borderline painful experiences (Semi-Pro). One can only presume that someone pitched him this idea and some of the people in it, and he took it without completely understanding what his role or place in it would be. With its release onto the one and only remaining high definition format available, is Blades of Glory the shizzle?
Facts of the Case
Blades of Glory Craig and Jeff Cox's first screenplay that was snapped up for production, while Josh Gordon and Will Speck (of Cavemen lore) join forces for the directing credit. In Blades of Glory, Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, a renegade figure skater whose unorthodox style has captivated America for several years. Michaels' main rival, his LeBron to Carmelo, his Chris Evert to Martina Navratilova, if you will, is Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite), whose skating style is more of calm precision and execution, under the mentorship of his leader Darren MacElroy (William Fichtner, The Perfect Storm). A regrettable event at an international tournament has led to the banishment of the competitors for life, until they discover a loophole allows them to re-enter tournament play as a pairs team. So with two guys skating with one another, hilarity will ensue, right?
I think I watched Blades of Glory when it came out in theaters because, well, it seemed like a funny thing to see. I was wrong. I watched it again when I was on vacation with my wife, thinking that the time difference and the tropical environment might change my mind. Nope, no such thing. And I'll tell you why: Blades of Glory is the prototypical example of an idea that was basically ripped off as a smaller bit elsewhere, bastardized for a feature-length film, and the film was executed so poorly that people forget about the original idea. Walk with me for a second on this:
I firmly believe that the original idea for Blades of Glory came from a Saturday Night Live sketch in 1984, where Martin Short and Harry Shearer were synchronized swimmers, and their coach was Christopher Guest. The sketch was and is hilarious, as it's done with the trio's adept comic sensibilities of keeping tongue in cheek even as it's as serious as possible for the participants. Flash forward two decades, and you have Heder's character as the presumptive star of a film, something that he simply isn't able to do, Napoleon Dynamite or not, and Ferrell is the supporting act of sorts, with laughs that feel lazy and uninspired and seem to be repetitive from time to time. Moreover, there's a whole battalion of established comedic performers who have this annoying habit of relying on a stupid story without thinking out of the box and improvising. You've got Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Jenna Fischer (The Office) and Arnett's real-life spouse Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live) to name a few, all of whom are wasted and their contributions seemingly neuteured. And in the spirit of political correctness, the frustrating thing is that the cast looks like they want to make the jokes we all want to see, though that apparently would wake the elephant in the room, and we'd all perish as a result. If it meant that I wouldn't have to see Blades of Glory again, so be it.
Technically, Blades of Glory appears in 1.85:1 widescreen with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. There's not a lot to be had in terms of quality shot composition, but the detail in the tight shots looks solid and is consistent throughout most of the film, and the many different colors and hues look excellent. On the audio side, there's an uncompressed 5.1 surround track. Now I haven't seen or heard the previous HD DVD, but I'd presume that the lossless track is a bump up from the HD DVD with the many songs possessing quite the dynamic range and a fairly robust low end without subwoofer activity. Dialogue sounds clear and strong through the feature, and speaker panning/directional effects seem to be a little on the nonexistent side. I wasn't expecting much more than what I got here, I suppose.
On the supplements side of things, the standard definition two-disc extras appear to be ported over to the next-generation versions. While there's no commentary, there are four deleted scenes (9:10) which, aside from a new angle to the Jimmy/Chazz dynamic, are fairly bland, and some alternate takes (8:38) that provide the occasional chuckle. "Return to Glory" (14:46) is your typical making-of piece, with the castmembers doing bits on what they thought of the production and fellow cast members. The last five minutes of this thing are very tedious and unfunny, and by and large you're not going to learn anything new here. "Celebrities on Thin Ice" (6:03) takes a look at how the relevant actors adjusted to life on skates, while "Cooler Than Ice" (4:36) is a lot of wardrobe-related fun, with some test footage of the cast thrown in here and there. "Arnett & Poehler: A Family Affair" (5:48) is a sit-down interview with the couple while they're "on," and this might be the funniest bit on the disc, and that includes the film, which is saying something. "20 Questions with Scott Hamilton" (4:59) is a mix of biographic and humorous questions for the skating legend, while "Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan" (3:21) is another in-character piece which is as boring as some of the other material. "Moviefone Unscripted" (9:54) is a promotional piece where Heder, Ferrell and Arnett ask one another unscripted questions, and could have been funnier, but sadly wasn't. A gag reel and stills gallery follows, along with a music video from American Idol's Bo Bice and some promotional in-character commercials shot specifically for MTV, which complete the disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is a moment of inspired casting here, and that's Craig T. Nelson (Coach) as the new coach for Chazz and Jimmy. It seemed like Nelson was the only one who was trying even a little bit to be funny for the film's 93 minutes. However, his role in the story is symptomatic of all the problems surrounding it. It could have been the scene-stealer and wasn't, so basically all we get is the chance to trip out on watching this guy wearing fake hair rooting and pushing his prodigy however he can.
Here's what Blades of Glory does; it says, "Hey, we've got this funny gimmick! And Will Ferrell and the Napoleon Dynamite guy are here, so you want to come! Plus, and get this, they ice skate together! So you know you want to come see it!" And sure, the idea might be funny, but they told it in such a piss-poor manner, so much so that the cast doesn't even seem to want to buy into it either. While the technical merits are decent and the supplements are OK, the film still sucks, so I'd avoid Blades of Glory if I were you.
Even the Russian judge gave this thing a zero.
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Scales of Justice
• "Return to Glory: The Making of Blades"
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