Studio: DreamWorks Pictures.
US Rating: PG-13 - For Crude and Sexual Humor, Language, A Comic Violent Image and Some Drug References
Film Length: 1hr 33 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/MPEG4 AVC
Audio: English, French & Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish & Poruguese
The Film - out of
An all male figure skating duo that choose to compete professionally must have seemed like fertile comedy grounds during the pitch session. And getting Will Ferrell to fill out a leotard as a sex-a-holic, figure skating rebel would have felt like the gold seal on this untapped comedy mine. But perhaps because of last years sports-spoof Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory comes off like a dull retread, a little late to the party and perpetually in the shadow of funnier, more energetic and original stuff.
The story can be summed up simply; two rival figure skaters, Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) get a lifetime ban from singles competition after they get into a tussle in front of live TV crews and stunned fans. After several years starved of the limelight and the thrill of competing in professional figure skating, they discover a loop-hole that would allow them to compete. All they would have to do is put aside their differences, work hard and become the first all male figure skating duo in history.
As a spoof of sports films; where the good guys turn their misfortunes into a chance to win glory, this film sets up the plot points and knocks them down with routine confidence. The premise itself gets a chuckle but only a fleeting one. The main source of entertainment must come from the comedic stars at the center of this farcical tale. Chazz and Jimmy must smooth over their rocky past and come together as a seamless pair on the ice, if they are to take home the gold at the world championships. For the majority of the short running-time, they do a good job of squeezing the jokes out of the set-up. The film relies heavily on Ferrell’s unique brand of comedy, a combination of the utterly ridiculous and the appealingly pathetic, to bring the audience along. And Heder, mostly playing the straight man, ekes out a few laughs as the primp perfectionist.
There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen on Blades of Glory, a two man directing team, four names in the screenwriting column, three names under ‘story by’ and three producers, including Ben Stiller. The direction is capable, if plodding at times and the script has some nice touches, but by and large the film feels like it was made ‘by the numbers’ and, as such, fails the ultimate funny test. Ferrell’s Talladega Nights is a good example of a film that succeeds by defying the rules of what I call ‘high-gloss, low-brow’ comedies. It was filled with absurdities and logical stretches that only served to make the film funnier and remained fresh, silly and hugely entertaining. Nights was ultimately a more mainstream version of Ferrell’s similarly off beat, but equally funny, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. But Blades falls short because it holds back on the more natural absurdities that make Ferrell’s comedy refreshing, instead staying within safer and, in the end, less funny ground.
Outside of the films two lead stars, ‘Blades’ is filled with a veritable array of talent. Serving as the films antagonists are Will Arnett (Arrested Development) and Amy Poehler (SNL), married in real life but portraying the malicious, manipulative and pampered Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, the figure-skating rivals to the all male duo. Both are good at what they are given to do, but with Arnett’s incredible comedic timing, he feels underused. Playing the mistreated sister to the self-centered Van Waldenberg duo is Jenna Fischer. Most will recognize her as the sweet and funny Pam in NBC’s The Office. Relegated to a similar function here, she still manages to exude charm even if the character she plays is one that simply serves a plot point and little else. Finally, Craig T. Nelson serves as the figure-skating coach to Chazz and Jimmy.
While there are a few moments that had me laughing out loud (Will’s rendition of the Black-eyed Peas ‘Lady Humps’ is a good example), they weren’t enough to save Blades of Glory from being merely an average comedy. What was satisfying and original in Dodgeball and Talladega Nights, feels tame and formulaic in this film. The script is occasionally clumsy, failing to end scenes cleanly and missing opportunities to capitalize on the strength of the comedy actors.
A high ‘glitz’ production factor and Ferrell headlining aren’t enough to make Blades of Glory worth recommending.
DreamWorks pictures have provided Blades of Glory with a high quality release, presenting the film framed in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 1080p, encoded MPEG4 AVC and just as clean as you would expect from a newer release. Free from any artifacting, compression issues or blemishes that I could find, the image is extremely good. The film’s color palette lends itself to cool but bright colors, whites and lighter blues for the most part. The colors come through sharp with plenty of vibrancy. With all the ice and snow related scene settings, the image can be somewhat flat at times, but again, fitting with the locations. Blades of Glory is a beautifully sharp image and a great looking HD-DVD.
This release comes with English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround sound options. Even though comedies are hardly the genre to become reference material for Home Theater Enthusiasts, there is plenty of reason to expect a high standard for the audio quality of an HD release. Blades of Glory manages to shine at times, but for the most part, only adequately does the job.
Before Paramount and DreamWorks announced that they would release exclusively on HD-DVD, thereby cancelling all previously announced Blu-Ray titles, this release was reported to have been given a Dolby TrueHD audio track and a lossless PCM tack on the Blu-Ray release. This matter has been debated among those with a strong preference for the highest quality audio that could fit on a disc, but I will confess, I am not sure higher bit-rate audio would have made much difference on this film. Certainly not enough to excite the ears.
Discrete effects in the surrounds are utilized on occasion, the music in the film gets some good bass and the crowded rink scenes provide the best opportunities for active audio effects, but little attention appears to have been paid to making the audio for this release stand out. It does the job but like the film itself, isn’t quite what you might be hoping for.
While the number of special features is impressive, the substantive nature of them, in total, isn’t quite as exciting.
Return to Glory: The Making of Blades - (14:46) – These ‘behind-the-scenes’ features that are part real, part fake documentary are always funnier than a straight collection of interview snippets interspersed with scenes from the film. This one is no different, with each actor seeming to have fun either taking the interview in character or not taking it seriously.
Celebrities on Thin Ice - (6:04) – This feature discusses the choreography and filming on the ice. What comes through in this extra is a sense of how seriously Will Ferrell and Jon Heder took the ice skating action.
Cooler than Ice: The Super Sexy Costumes of Skating - (4:37) – A brief look at the wild and silly costumes created for the film and the stars.
Arnett and Poehler – A Family Affair - (5:48) – Perhaps the funniest of the special features is this interview with real life married couple Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. In this quick 5 minutes they demonstrate how creatively funny they are and how well they work off of each other.
20 Questions with Scott Hamilton - (5:00) – Scott Hamilton takes some questions from the DVD producer and manages to hold his own, being informative and funny at the same time.
Hector: Portrait of a Psychofan - (3:23) – A brief but odd extra with the film’s stalker, Hector, who obsesses over Jimmy MacElroy in the film and manages to be just as creepy here.
Moviefone Unscripted with Will Ferrell, Jon Heder and Will Arnett - (9:54) – Another great feature with the three stars asking each other questions submitted by viewers. A good use of their comedy skills, with Ferrell standing out with just how calmly funny he can be.
Deleted Scenes - (9:57) – Four deleted scenes that cover a couple of discarded plot threads, match the scenes left in the film and were probably cut for pacing. The film runs about 87 minutes without the end credits so they were clearly not cut for time!
Alternate Takes – It is interesting how these actors can fire off a number of alternate lines to get a laugh. Extra features like this, that peak into the comedy process of actors, are some of the most interesting. Again, Ferrell comes through as the most inventive, especially with his lines about rope.
Gag Reel - (2:09) – This gag reel doesn’t quite manage to squeeze the belly laughs that most do and comes across a little short and somewhat lukewarm.
Photo Gallery - A reasonably large collection of production, behind the scenes and costume photos assembled in three separate galleries.
Music Video Blades of Glory by Bo Bice - (4:41) – Former American Idol contestant, Bo Bice, belts out a track that was sung by Chazz and Jimmy in a scene ultimately left on the cutting room floor. The video has Bo sitting at a piano that looks too big for him, in a suit that could have been out-of-date even in the 70’s. It was hard to tell if this video should have been taken seriously or was meant as tongue in cheek.
MTV Interstitials - (1:36) – 3 clips, advertising the film in segments aired solely for the purpose of marketing the film. Each runs approximately 32 seconds.
Silly comedies, funny films that don’t rely on normal conventions or choose to push situations and characters to extremes, can be some of the best stuff at the Cineplex. But when these films derail, they don’t so much crash and burn as they do ‘disappoint’. Perhaps the greatest complaint I can levy against this figure-skating farce is that, despite considerable onscreen talent and the freshness of the concept, Blades of Glory is disappointing.
What was outlandish and ‘slow-burn’ funny in Anchorman, then outrageous and over-the-top in Talladega Nights is simply all too familiar and a little tiresome now, leaving me wondering why a film like this was needed in the first place.