TBT: Blades of Glory (2007)

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And I guess we are going to switch tones here quickly, by choosing a comedy vehicle for Mr. Will Ferrell for this Thursday. A comedy that has blades. Because that is really the only thing I can say about it that’s mostly positive and truthful; or I could lie and say something really cheesy, like. . .this is a comedy with a razor-sharp wit. Eh, that line actually sounded a lot better in my head. ANYway, moving on. . . .Today is our second edition of the Olympic throwbacks, and. . .well, to be completely truthful. . .this ain’t no world-class affair. With all due respect to figure skating, there are some subjects that not even the Ferrell school of comedy can save for podium placement. 

Today’s food for thought: Blades of Glory

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Release: March 30, 2007

[Netflix]

As if it weren’t abundantly clear before, Will Ferrell will do anything to wring satire from some real world events that, admittedly, do seem ripe for comedy. Seems he really stretched himself thin here though, putting on a performance that causes more eye-rolls and face-palms than chuckles. Because his career has been molded from a prolific number of feature-length SNL skits, most of which have proven his ability to be consistently funny, there was always going to be speculation as to where and when he would take the inevitable misstep.

That moment doesn’t seem to get any more obvious than his participation in this excruciatingly bad spoof of the world of competitive figure skating. For the most part, the Will Ferrell spirit is in tact with Blades of Glory, as he is the source of the movie’s few and far between moments of chuckle-inducing comedy; but the film — directed by the people who would be responsible for 2010’s offensively unfunny The Switch — turns out to be nothing more than an Adam McKay wannabe.

It’s not like Ferrell’s many collaborations with McKay have all been successful, and even the best of their efforts have moments that tend to paint targets on the back of their heads for anyone willing to take aim at their levels of silliness. But rare is the Will Ferrell movie that is so over-the-top, so dumb that it ceases to be a movie and slowly slides into the status of being a terrible, terrible spectacle. Beginning with a premise that is as generic as a bowl of Corn Flakes, let’s hope that this is the worst Will Ferrell movie yours truly will ever lay eyes on.

Talented male ice skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) disgrace themselves at an elite ice skating competition when their egos prove to be too unwieldy to be held upon a single podium. The result of a massive fight is their lifetime ban from the division of singles skating. Jimmy, an orphan having been raised by his coldhearted foster father (William Fichtner), is a sensitive, dignified male skater who apparently has so much grace his hair looks as though it has been plucked from the feathers of the finest quail; he’s a stark contrast to Chazz, who is described as the “leather-clad lothario” of ice skating. Fitting description, really. They forgot to add, “classless douche who soils the image of figure skating permanently, and seemingly out of spite.” Such ruination is obviously the aim here, but it seems as though the same effect could have been achieved had Ferrell not overacted so much, trying to make a terrible script work in whatever way he could.

Back to the storyline: the fruity pair of star-crossed nitwits discover a loophole in the bylaws, which would allow them to still participate in pairs skating, should they find a partner. Of course, neither of them are able to do that, and the only option they have left is to skate with each other and form the world’s first all-male skating couple. This is an opportunity first recognized by Jimmy’s former trainer (Craig T. Nelson) when he watches footage of the two fighting and realizes they seem to have chemistry. Over the next several days — they find out they have extremely limited time to put together a routine in time for the next World Skating Competition (a less cool Olympic-esque stage) — Coach attempts to tone down the pair’s hostility towards one another and get them focused on the task at hand.

There’s nothing here that should surprise: an extremely convenient storyline yielding hilariously unrealistic results. Except, scratch out the word ‘hilariously.’ The sole visual gag that truly works with this film is the chubby body of Will Ferrell, a blobby mess that is so clearly not the body of an ice skater. At the heart of this story there should be some chemistry between Ferrell and Heder, and while there is some to be found, it’s not enough to take attention away from this very poorly realized script.

The villains are even less threatening than usual here, and are portrayed by the exceedingly irritating tandem of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. They play the brother-and-sister pair, Stranz and Fairchild Waldenberg, who are the favorites to win it all. They use their other sibling, Katie (Jenna Fischer) in an attempt to sabotage Jimmy and Chazz at every turn. This subplot is added to no great effect and comes off as filler material for an already anorexic movie.

Blades of Glory ostensibly is nothing different from the other Ferrell comedies that take a subject and make fun of it until there’s nothing left to make fun of. But it is just bad. Jokes land less often than the fabled ‘iron lotus’ trick. Heder’s act wears thin quick, and Ferrell can’t shake the shadows of some of his better creations. The rest of the cast fair no better. Even Craig T. Nelson seems to be phoning every one of his lines in. I like stupid schtick as much as the next person, but there apparently seems to be a limit to the stupidity that can pass for tolerable. The flimsiness of Blades of Glory doesn’t cut it.

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1-5Recommendation: There are far better comedy vehicles driven by one of the greatest SNL alums of all time. Unless you have literally nothing else going on, avoid this film. It skates on thin ice from beginning to end, and now it makes sense why it took me until today to actually watch this one.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 93 mins.

Quoted: “Chazz Michael Michaels: an ice-devouring sex tornado.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.joblo.com; http://www.imdb.com 

30-for-30: The Price of Gold

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Release: Thursday, January 16, 2014

[ESPN]

Why? Why? Why. . . .wasn’t there more security in the building at the time of the incident?

In this relatively high-profile documentary, we are entreated to an inside look into the lives of two gifted female figure skaters — Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan — and how their worlds would ultimately intersect in dramatic fashion prior to the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, which took place in Lillehammer, Norway.

Academy Award-nominated director Nanette Burstein, whose filmography includes feature films such as Going the Distance, The Kid Stays in the Picture and a documentary spoof on The Breakfast Club called American Teen, takes on the responsibility of revealing the truth of what happened behind the curtains — literally — following Nancy Kerrigan’s practice skate session the evening of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Kerrigan, having barely left the ice, was assaulted by an unidentified man and clubbed across her right knee with a police baton, rendering her unable to skate for the competition and quite possibly for the upcoming Olympics.

ESPN’s latest 30-for-30 couldn’t have had better timing, what with the Sochi Games a mere three weeks away. Burstein’s work here is all the more impacting thanks to the (okay. . .yes, intentional) scheduling of its airing. Centering around an exclusive interview with Tonya Harding with a variety of other interviewees both current and past, The Price of Gold buries its head into the controversy and tries to establish who was responsible for the attack. It has other goals as well, such as verifying whether or not this could have been an attempt by Harding’s camp to improve her odds of winning the gold medal, and showing how this singular event came to be the catalyst for a resurgence in the event’s popularity.

The two skaters both came from humble beginnings — Harding much more so, as she was born into a poorer family that could barely afford her to go to the skating sessions she attended as a child. Her mother, an abusive alcoholic, never truly supported her daughter’s passion. Kerrigan, on the other hand, while certainly not from wealth, grew up in a slightly more privileged family and as the documentary expands, we get to appreciate the subtle differences in the two athletes. (Naysayers be damned, this is an athletic sport.) But Harding found it much more difficult to rise to the top in her sport as her reputation for being the skater from the wrong side of the tracks never really helped her image.

As Tony Kornheiser (a personal favorite sports analyst of yours truly) points out, figure skaters are the dainty, precious commodities corporate America is interested in seeing achieve Gold medal status, if only because they represent the red, white and blue. Nevermind the fact that these are extremely young girls pushing their bodies (and minds) to their absolute limits. With the Olympics being the largest stage imaginable for any competitor, the slightest sense of anything out of the ordinary occurring in the weeks and/or months leading up to the event potentially can spell disaster. No one could have seen anything like this coming, though.

Like most (if not all) 30-for-30 documentaries, there’s no special, winning formula to the proceedings. Its structure is quite linear. Tracing the developmental stages of these girls’ careers and their relative trajectories heading into the Games, the focus is primarily on Harding, seeing as though Kerrigan declined to be interviewed. Frequent cuts back to the chat with the 43-year-old reveal her reactions now to the events being described and depicted in archived footage in the meantime. One cannot help but feel that some part of her perhaps deserved what was coming. One does not get the strongest sense that this was an innocent skater terrorized by a media storm; yet one cannot dismiss the sense of sorrow they feel towards a woman caught in constantly abusive environments.

Her first marriage to Jeff Gillooly continued the pattern of physical abuse and emotional fragility — hardly the picture of a world-class figure skater. This image she carried with her became such a burden that when the incident occurred, her name was instantly linked to it. But, as it turned out, the national opinion wasn’t so prejudicial.

The Price of Gold is jam-packed with fascinating footage. Burstein has done quite a job assembling a story that nitpicks through what can only be considered one of the most controversial and bizarre occurrences in Olympic history. . .in sports history. Quite likely, there will never be a Games quite like the 1994 Winter Olympics again. However, she is lacking one critical piece of the puzzle — an up-to-date conversation with the other side: Nancy Kerrigan. Though it would be harsh to consider it a misstep considering Kerrigan’s understandable resistance to being thrust back into the spotlight and talking about her own blemished history — and the documentary can’t be considered biased because of this — the end product does suffer a little bit as a result.

Imagine the juxtaposition of these would-be conflicting interviews. The depth of perspective. We get a little taste of that from the footage taken back in the early to mid-90’s, but there is so much more to speculate about how these two people have grown and changed since. There are interviews from the Kerrigan camp (her current husband gets some camera time) but it’s just not the same. We have to believe Burstein tried her best to get her involved, but at the end of the day, The Price of Gold falls just short of gold and lands on the second-highest podium position because of one simple trip up.

Such is the nature of competitive skating, too. Now here’s a photo gallery of what figure skating looks like to those who don’t partake in it:

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And here’s just an awesome pic of Tonya (right) getting her clock cleaned when she started boxing.

Click here to read more 30-for-30 reviews.

3-5Recommendation: For anyone interested in learning more about the backstory, The Price of Gold is quite valuable. It’s surprisingly digestible and enticing (particularly for sports fans who don’t necessarily buy into figure skating as a “legitimate” sport), with the interviews with Harding and others being at the top of the list of reasons you should see into this.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 60 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com