These Will Ferrell comedies are becoming as critic-proof as the hack-and-stab slasher flicks that seem to crop up on a near-weekly basis. Ferrell's trademark mixture of dim-witted bravado, oblivious machismo and inappropriate sexual fervor can be relied upon for cheap yuks no matter how artificial the dick-joke-by-committee script he's been given. This time out, he's taken his cocky shtick to the ice of competitive figure skating, a venue so ridiculously stuffed with overinflated egos that it verges on self-parody already. With a feathery do and a leather-fringe-happy wardrobe straight out of Neil Diamond's Hot August Night tour, Ferrell plays Chazz Michael Michaels, skating's reigning alpha male bad boy, which, on the face of it, is a funny enough concept. His archrival is spoiled rich kid Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), a fastidious, blond-coiffed perfectionist decked out in peacock finery. After tying for a gold medal, the bitter enemies start a winner's podium fistfight debacle that earns them both lifetime bans from solo competition. Of course, there is a loophole, and, four years later, the deadly foes are locking fingers and landing triple sow-cows side by side as the first all-male pairs team in history. None too happy with this development is the creepily close brother-and-sister team of Stranz and Fairchild (married comedians Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) who enlist their sweetly docile sister Katie (Jenna Fischer) to seduce one the boys. Inevitably a love triangle arises that threatens to freeze the dynamic new partnership before they ever take the ice. Will this feuding odd couple ever get it together and make it back to the top? Does a bear crap in the woods?
Blades of Glory amounts to one prolonged orgy of frat-boy homophobia, albeit an occasionally hilarious one. The humor leans heavily on "ick factor" sight gags, especially those involving testicle injuries, and the on-ice set pieces are a silly sight to behold. Off ice the movie sags badly, particularly any scene that advances the plot or is supposed to carry some sort of emotional weight. Part of the problem is the goony presence of Heder, who sucks the funny out of the room at every opportunity. His appeal still remains mysterious: With his jutting buck teeth and nasal drone, he seems to be doing yet another take on Napoleon Dynamite, and casting directors keep using him, hoping he'll get that genie back in the bottle no matter how painful the attempt. Ferrell, meanwhile, charges ahead full steam, with a desperate, shameless gusto that forces giggles even when the material lets him down and he starts to repeat himself. He's still fun to watch, if somebody could please just make him keep his shirt on.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].