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Reviews » HD DVD Reviews » Blades of Glory (HD DVD)
Blades of Glory (HD DVD)
Dreamworks // PG-13 // August 28, 2007 // Region 0
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 5, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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So...yeah. You might've heard that Paramount and Dreamworks, once among a tiny handful of studios supporting both high-def formats, opted to saddle up next to HD DVD exclusively. This announcement came so close to Blades of Glory's bow on home video that despite the studio's best efforts to yank any stray Blu-ray discs out of circulation, a handful of BDs still managed to sneak out into the wild, commanding hundreds upon hundreds of dollars on eBay. The good news...? If you're really determined and have a high enough credit limit, you can check out Will Ferrell's competitive ice skating spoof on the format of your choice. The bad news...? Um, you're still watching Blades of Glory.

Think Talladega Nights on ice. Will Ferrell does the whole booze-swilling, offbeat pop culture hero-slash-jackass thing again as an Olympic-bound skating superstar. Flinging all 6'3" of his beefy, leather-clad bod across the ice to Billy Squier's distinctive flavor of cock-rock, Chazz Michael Michaels is skating. His only real competition is the graceful, elegant Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder), a kinda effeminate twentysomething weaned by a billionaire in some kind of Six Million Dollar Man montage into a carefully crafted skating sensation. The longtime rivals tie for the gold medal this time around, and not so interested in sharing the shiny medallion, Chazz and Jimmy start brawling on the ice, in full view of the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world. A beloved androgynous mascot is engulfed in flames, and the once-proud sport is humiliated.

The officials swing the ban hammer, barring Chazz and Jimmy from ever again competing professionally in Men's Singles. It takes...oh, three and a half years, but they're eventually clued into a loophole: the two of 'em can still compete in Doubles. There hasn't ever been an all-male skating pair, but with the registration deadline just a couple of days off, Jimmy's old coach Coach (played by...y'know, Coach, Craig T. Nelson) convinces his one-time protégé to team up with his husky, sex-crazed rival and make history. America already has a couple of names scribbled under the Skating Sweetheart category, though: brother and sister team Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler). The scheming siblings can't stomach the thought of the limelight being yanked away from 'em, so they turn to their meek, embattled, understatedly gorgeous sister Katie (Jenna Fischer) to spy on and seduce the sport's first all-dong doubles pair.

One of Jon Heder's brothers or something pops in with a cameo, spouting off an "As if skating wasn't gay enough already!" jab, and that's pretty much Blades of Glory crammed down to a seven word thesis statement. It'd be kinda clever as a Saturday Night Live sketch, but s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out to feature length...? Not so much. Aside from milking a little gay panic from wiener-grabbing and the sight of two men practically 69ing on ice skates, Blades of Glory really doesn't know how to pad out the rest of its runtime. The story's the Generic Underdog Sports Formula coupled with Two Guys Who Can't Stand Each Other Become Reluctant Partners, Then Bestest Friends, Then Have Something Come Between 'Em Immediately Before The Big Competition. Sure, originality's kinda overrated, but Blades of Glory comes up a cropper with the comedy too.

The spectacularly flamboyant costumes are a couple hundred times funnier than any of the dialogue, which includes winners like "Are you an official here...because you've officially given me a boner!" and "These guys put the bone in zamboni!" There's some clever stuff like a forbidden head-lopping move that's never before crept its way out from behind the Communist curtain and a particularly sharp chase to the death on skates, but most of the humor is awfully lazy. Even with a grand total of five writers and a pair of directors in tow, Blades of Glory almost never manages to snag a laugh, and my standards really aren't that high. Seriously, look through the rest of my reviews. It's embarrassing.

Jon Heder is to comedy what a hysterectomy is to childbearing. I guess someone likes him since he keeps getting cast, but Heder is as devastatingly un-funny in Blades of Glory as he's been in every movie he's knocked out since his break-out turn in Napoleon Dynamite. It doesn't help that he's stuck playing the straight man, but Heder awkwardly delivers his lines as if he's in a high school production of Our Town, and he doesn't play off Ferrell especially well. To be fair, though, no one could realistically expect to get much of a laugh from an exchange like this: "The night is a very dark time for me." "It's a dark time for everyone, moron." "Not for Alaskans or dudes with night vision goggles." Yikes.

Even if Heder and Ferrell don't manage to make with the funny, Blades of Glory is kinda salvaged by Will Arnett and Amy Poehler, who camp it up as the moustache twirling badniks-du-jour and bang out the movie's more clever skating routines (in the sort of thug-lite hip-hop wardrobe you can only see at the softer side of Sears and in a climactic routine as JFK and a pill-popping Marilyn Monroe to boot). Blades of Glory sports the usual flurry of cameos and quasi-celebrity bit parts -- William Fichtner, Luke Wilson, Romany Malco, Nick Swardson, Andy Richter, Rob Corddry, and Jim Lampley -- along with real-life skaters like Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan, and Scott Hamilton. A lot of 'em are on the verge of being funny but are much too quickly shoved to the sidelines to make room for another awkward line delivery or stilted reaction shot from Jon Heder, never to be seen again. Jenna Fischer's talents are kinda wasted in the Generic Love Interest role, but she's so effortlessly, unrelentingly adorable that she gets a pass, and a lengthy scene with Fischer practically busting out of skimpy lingerie doesn't hurt. Also on the upside, the skating competitions that bookend the movie are pulled off surprisingly well, and I can't hate any movie that makes such brilliant use of Queen's theme from Flash Gordon.

I hafta admit that I really was looking forward to giving Blades of Glory a look after being duly impressed with its theatrical trailer, but this is a tepid, lifeless comedy that tries to prop up a stock underdog sports formula with Will Ferrell trudging through the same role he does in every third movie he makes. Blades of Glory isn't aggressively devoid of humor enough for me to say "skip it!", but if you haven't seen the movie before, I'd definitely recommend giving this HD DVD a rental before forking over thirty or forty bucks.

Video: Presented at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Blades of Glory sidesteps most of the usual HD DVD hiccups. As expected for a flick fresh out of theaters, there aren't any flecks or other signs of wear scattered around, and film grain is rarely intrusive. The AVC encoding doesn't show any signs of artifacting even when the cameras are careening around at breakneck speeds during the competitions.

Even if this high-def presentation is technically sound, Blades of Glory still falls somewhere closer to average. The image is clean and reasonably sharp, but fine detail is rarely all that striking outside of tighter shots. I kinda expected a cartoonishly flamboyant movie like this to boast a bright, vivid palette, but the hues here are surprisingly subdued, with saturation often drained away whenever its characters step off the ice. I don't doubt that this HD DVD of Blades of Glory is representative of the way the film looked theatrically, and it certainly ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of 'pretty good', but it's not a showcase title.

Audio: Blades of Glory was initially announced with a TrueHD track on HD DVD, and the canned Blu-ray release was supposed to sport PCM audio. Neither of those made it onto store shelves, tho'. The HD DVD spinning in my player right now doesn't have any lossless or uncompressed audio at all -- just a standard issue Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track -- but the movie's timid sound design means it probably wouldn't have amounted to much of a difference anyway. Like most comedies, the mix places its emphasis largely on dialogue and music, both of which are heavily anchored across the front channels. There are some nice discrete effects, though, particularly the unusually loud crowd noise that roars from the surrounds during the bookending competitions. The score and licensed cock-rock are bolstered by tight, punchy bass, and the subwoofer is kept thumping whenever Chazz and company are tearing it up on the ice. The sub really gets a workout during the "...the hell?" moments that close out the flick. The film's dialogue comes through alright, never difficult to pick out or finding itself overwhelmed in the mix. Little about Blades of Glory's audio really leaps out or makes it a point to impress, but it's decent enough.

Dolby Digital Plus tracks are also offered in French and Spanish, and the fistful of subtitles include French, Spanish, Portuguese, and both traditional and SDH English streams.

Extras: Blades of Glory sports a bunch of bells and whistles, and like pretty much everything from Dreamworks this year, almost all of them are presented in high-def. In fact, of the long, rambling list of extras I'm about to spout off, only two of 'em are in standard definition: a minute and a half of hyperdramatic TV spots and a Moviefone Unscripted session with Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, and Will Arnett. That last one has the three actors lobbing out questions to each other for ten minutes, dryly quipping the whole time and veering off on tangents like Moviefone's overactive dolly cam.

That interview kinda sets the stage for the slew of short featurettes that make up the bulk of the disc's extras, which are also more concerned with grabbing a few laughs instead of...y'know, a cold, stone-faced look at what went into making Blades of Glory. ...and that's okay since they're a lot funnier than anything that actually made it into the movie. That even goes for "Return to Glory: The Making of Blades of Glory" (15 min.). The directors and cast dryly joke their way through the whole thing, poking fun at the usual talking points about casting and how the project came together before trying feverishly to rattle off their twenty all-time favorite skaters and heatedly arguing whether or not they had any interest in skating beforehand.

"Celebrities on Thin Ice" (6 min.) runs through the process of getting the actors on the rink and hammering out Sarah Kawahara's skating choreography. "Cooler than Ice: The Super Sexy Costumes of Skating" is a four and a half minute costuming featurette, starting off with a few brief comments from costume designer Julie Weiss but settles into the cast gabbing about their favorite of her off-kilter outfits after that. Quick peeks at screen tests with these costumes are gingerly sprinkled around throughout the featurette.

Will Arnett and Amy Poehler quip about how they got ensnared in this mess in the six minute "A Family Affair", building up to a hysterical bit about whether or not the two comic titans would squirt out a funny kid. "20 Questions with Scott Hamilton" (5 min.) is...yeah, pretty much as advertised, starting off as a fairly traditional interview, but since that's no fun, Hamilton starts fielding questions about ninja swords and dragons. The only of the interviews done in character is Nick Swardson's three minute "Hector: Portrait of a Psycho Fan", which has the almost-serial-killer showing off his extensive collection of stalkeriffic Jimmy MacElroy trophies.

Clocking in at two minutes, the gag reel is shorter than expected but manages to squeeze out a few laughs, particularly as Will Ferrell is being pelted with food on the treadmill. Eight and a half minutes of alternate takes lean heavily on improvised one-liners along with Chazz rambling on the phone, tearing through a couple other songs on the threadmill, and finding oodles of different words for his willie. Closing out the leftovers are four deleted scenes. Two of 'em are really short, giving Jenna Fischer a little more screentime as the Van Waldenbergs cackle at her super-secret spy video, and the other follows up on Hector's whole deranged stalker thing. Chazz helps Jimmy gets ready for his big date in an agonizingly long scene that heaps on a lot more to their backstory. The last of these scenes has Chazz belting out a song called -- yup! -- "Blades of Glory" on a keytar, and Bo Bice gives it a power ballad polish in a high-def music video that's also packed on.

Rounding out the extras is an inhumanly extensive high-res still gallery that's broken up into three sections: "Kick Some Ice", "Capture the Dream", and "Costume Glory", which itself is chopped up into another three sections. I kinda lost count after a while, but there are well over a hundred shots scattered around 'em.

Conclusion: Blades of Glory stretches its one joke out for an hour and a half, and even with all his comedic might and his experience having tackled pretty much this same exact character a couple hundred times before, Will Ferrell can't prop up the lightweight comedy or his hopelessly outclassed co-star. The HD DVD release is nice enough, but the movie...? Rent It.
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