Golly, what a difference a year makes. This time back in '07, Paramount and Dreamworks had just shoved Blu-ray to the sidelines, and stacks and stacks of already-pressed BD discs of Blades of Glory were locked in a warehouse in Pasadena somewhere along with magnetized dead aliens and the Ark of the Covenant. The handful of Blu-ray discs that managed to sneak out into the wild were quickly tossed on eBay to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Skip forward twelve months, and not only can you grab a Blu-ray disc of Blades of Glory off the shelf at pretty much any of the big box stores, but the sticker price is even ten bucks less than last year's HD DVD. That'd be really cheery, wonderful news if this movie weren't...y'know, Blades of Glory.
Think Talladega Nights on ice. Will Ferrell does the whole booze-swilling, offbeat pop culture hero-slash-jackass thing yet again, swapping Ricky Bobby's pit crew out for a pair of ice skates. Flinging all 6'3" of his beefy, leather-clad bod across the ice to Billy Squier cock-rock, Chazz Michael Michaels is professional ice skating. His only real competition at the World WinterSport Games 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 meticulously crafted skating sensation. The longtime rivals tie for the gold medal this time around, and not so interested in sharing the shiny, 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 stands humiliated. Sob.
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: Singles may be out, but 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, shouting something like "As if skating wasn't gay enough already!", and that's pretty much Blades of Glory crammed down to seven words. It'd be kinda clever as a Mad TV sketch, I guess, 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 can't figure out how to pad out the rest of its runtime. The story's the Generic Underdog Sports Formula coupled with two scoops of 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. It just feels like a movie I've waded through a couple hundred times already. Yeah, yeah, I know that originality's kinda overrated, but Blades of Glory comes up a cropper with the comedy too.
The ree-diculously flamboyant costumes are a couple hundred times funnier than any of the one-liners, lobbing out winners like "Are you an official here...because you've officially given me a boner!" and "These guys put the bone in zamboni!" Get it? See, they're both guys, and boys have pee pees that get hard and turn into boners!!!!! Sure, there's some clever stuff like a forbidden head-lopping move from behind the Iron Curtain and a climactic 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. No, seriously, look through the rest of my reviews...it's kinda embarrassing.
I've heard a bunch of directors say that making a movie is kind of like giving birth to a child, and if that's true for comedies, then Jon Heder is pretty much the equivalent of a hysterectomy. I guess someone likes him since he keeps getting cast in these sorts of movies, but Heder is as devastatingly, soul-crushingly un-funny in Blades of Glory as he's been in...well, 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's gonna 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, camping it up as the moustache-twirling badniks and banging 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 exactly 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 pretty impressed with its theatrical trailer, but...nope, this is a room temperature, 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 so aggressively bad enough for me to scream "skip it!", but if you haven't seen the movie before, a rental will probably do it for you.
Video: I went back and forth between this Blu-ray disc and last year's HD DVD, and although this AVC encode does appear to be at a slightly higher bitrate, I really couldn't pick out much of a difference in quality. It's pretty much what you'd expect from what would've been a day-and-date release if Dreamworks hadn't kept this Blu-ray disc under lock and key for a full year. There aren't any flecks or other signs of wear scattered around, and film grain is visible but rarely intrusive. The compression never hiccups, not even when the cameras are careening around at breakneck speeds during the skating competitions.
Blades of Glory still falls somewhere closer to average, though. The 1.85:1 image is clean and reasonably sharp, but fine detail really isn't all that eye-popping outside of tighter shots. I kinda expected a cartoonishly flamboyant movie like this to sport a bright, vivid palette, but the hues here are surprisingly subdued, with saturation often drained away whenever its characters step off the ice. I'm sure this is how Blades of Glory looked during its theatrical run too, and it certainly ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of 'pretty good', but it's not a showcase title.
Audio: This Blu-ray disc definitely has one leg up over the HD DVD, this time sporting 5.1 PCM audio that's fuller and punchier than the Dolby Digital Plus track from the last go-around. It's not the most dynamic soundtrack or anything, but...y'know, still better. 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 kinda bizarre 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. Not all that much about Blades of Glory's audio really leaps out or makes it a point to impress, but...hey, it's decent enough.
This Blu-ray disc also tosses on Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, 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, 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 rather than some cold, stone-faced look at production. ...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 joke their way through the whole thing, poking fun at the usual talking points about casting and how the project came together before feverishly trying to rattle off their twenty all-time favorite skaters and heatedly debating 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, kicking 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, lovingly sprinkled around throughout the featurette.
Will Arnett and Amy Poehler quip about how they got yanked into 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 are anchored around 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 man-parts. 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-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 Blu-ray release is nice enough, but the movie...? Rent It.
The usual image disclaimer: the photos scattered around this review are promotional stills and don't necessarily represent the presentation on this Blu-ray disc.