Culture

Wigs, Outfits, Banter: 'Blades of Glory' Is an Underrated Classic

To celebrate the one month anniversary of our Corona Film Club, we revisited Will Ferrell and Jon Heder's 2007 figure skating comedy.
09 April 2020, 11:10am
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder Blades of Glory
Photo Credit: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
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A VICE UK column that fills the isolation for those self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic​. We’re watching and discussing a film with readers every week.

This week, VICE UK's Corona Film Club hit its one month milestone. To celebrate etching another line into the walls of quarantine, we selected 2007 "figure skating comedy" Blades of Glory, starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, for a communal viewing.

We hosted a viewing party on Wednesday night via Netflix Party, where we were joined by VICE readers who kept changing their names to things like "Lone Wolf" and "Mac Attack" in line with the film's incredibly banter-friendly plot, so it's very possible the following quotes are attributed to the same person using different monikers, because it's quite hard to keep up when almost everyone's icon is a slice of cartoon pizza.

The following discussion about ‘Zoolander: Skating Edition’ is made up of VICE staffers Ryan Bassil and Emma Garland's thoughts on the movie, alongside assorted comments from our Netflix Party live chat and reviews sent to us over email. See if your thoughts made the cut below, and suggest movies for future weeks by emailing coronafilmclub@vice.com. We'll be announcing next week's film and schedule on Tuesday the 14th of April, so be sure to check vice.com and @viceuk on Instagram and Twitter.

  1. IS THIS FILM ANY GOOD?

Ryan Bassil: Is Blades Of Glory good? Yes, it's like 95 percent fire. VICE UK's Corona Film Club has so far leaned into the serious side of film, so this rib-tickling Will Ferrell-fronted flick is a welcome respite. He's a funny dude. Unlike some of his best work (AKA Films to Watch When You're Hungover/One Blunt Deep) – like Anchorman, Step Brothers or The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – Ferrell didn't write this one, but he brings the same overly-serious comedic panache to this as he does to those other roles, that it pretty much seems like he did. I had a laugh. Also, besides I Tonya, are there many other films about ice skating? In that sense alone, it's really unique.

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Emma Garland: This is a really underrated cut from Will Ferrell's oeuvre, in my opinion. It came out in 2007, which was a really peak year for sentimental comedies – Superbad, Juno, Bee Movie, Knocked Up and Ratatouille were all released in the space of a few months – so it's no surprise that Blades of Glory has been somewhat overshadowed in the history books. It doesn't tug at the heartstrings in the way other comedies of that year did, it isn't relatable at all and says very little about the human condition, but for a slapstick comedy from the mid-2000s it's surprisingly sharp and timeless.

John Greenfield [email]: Well, it's not that film with Death in it by Ingmar Bergman, but then I've never seen that and probably never will. What we have here is a perfect 90 minutes of slightly subversive but wonderfully stupid humour, rattling through gag after gag through some sublime editing, while keeping the viewer immersed in an extremely silly plot that somehow comes off as the best gag of all.

David Martin [email]: It was a film we needed in these shitty weeks. Stupid but smart. They’d struggle to make films like this now – people are far more cynical, or at least too self-aware.

Bella [Netflix Party]: This is peak cinema. Every other film made after this was just bad.

HBG, FKA "Chicken Leg Icon" [Netflix Party]: I could get lost in this film forever.

  1. WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

John Greenfield [email]: Rival superstar ice skaters get banned for brawling then realise that if they join forces as a male double act they can still compete in the doubles category, under pain of retribution from the outraged reigning doubles champions. Hilarity ensues.

RB: Yeah, so Ferrell plays a sex-addicted, booze-drinking figure skater called Chazz Michael Michaels. He's the only man on ice to win four national championships and an adult film award. He wears leather and does glitzy tricks. Was his childhood troubled? "Yes, if you count being a nine-year-old kid with a 35-year-old girlfriend as troubled." Basically, he's a character (Maxim magazine once defined him as figure skating). And he's joined by Jon Heder as Jimmy MacElroy, who, yes, is also a figure skater. A curly-blonde-haired, tight-suit-wearing, softly-spoken figure skater. Naturally, the two don't get on at all. They operate in different worlds. One fucks, one doesn’t. Anyway, eventually they team up and take on a figure skating tournament as a double act.

Bella [Netflix Party]: Definitely a different vibe to I, Tonya.

  1. OKAY, BUT WHAT'S IT *REALLY* ABOUT?

Isabella Shannon [email]: A tale of hope and resilience, among inappropriate erotic moments and some rather incredible wigs. This film really made my week worthwhile.

EG: Blades of Glory is a film about the fragile male ego, as told through the mediums of two exaggerated and conflicting expressions of masculinity: Chazz Michael Michaels – an "ice devouring sex tornado" whose outfits were a decade ahead of the yeehaw agenda, and Jimmy MacElroy, a well-educated virgin with big Mormon energy. The great leveller, obviously, is their profession. As figure skaters with voluptuous hair, both men are societal underdogs rather than competitors, and their relationship only begins to blossom as they slowly learn to get over themselves and realise they are like-minded kings whose first moment of real bonding takes place over an expensive hairbrush.

RB: The two rivals eventually become teammates who succeed on the world stage, so I'd like to believe this film is about triumph in the face of adversity. There are some addiction issues at play – Chazz loves the sex and adores the booze; at one point he says, "I'm never satisfied, and that’s my problem," so there's that. You’ve also got some death, you’ve also got some daddy shit, you’ve also got— no, this is literally a funny film about ice skating rivalry, and it's all the better for it. Blades of Glory is a child of the mid-to-late 2000s: an era in which SNL cast members and the Class of Judd Apatow made what might have seemed like throwaway comedy films at the time, at least to everyone who thought they'd grown up past them via more ~Serious Art, but are in fact now artefacts of filmic fun. Can't really think of many fun films these days.

  1. WHAT ABOUT THE ACTING?

BB [Netflix Party]: Torvill and Dean could never.

EG: First of all, this cast is stacked. Beyond Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, we have: Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, Romany Malco, Nick Swardson, William Fichtner and Luke Wilson, to name a few. It says a lot about the level of everyone's comedic delivery that, for me, the most memorable lines are ones that don’t even make sense out of context. "It's daytime, you douche!"

John Greenfield [email]: Not a big fan of Will Ferrel as an actor, but he does pick funny movies, so kudos. I said I've been blasted every time I've watched this, but Amy Poehler does well as she always does.

RB: Man, I just love Will Arnett in everything he does. This might be because I instantly imagine every character he's playing to in fact be G.O.B – the magician he plays in Arrested Development – in costume. But yeah, he’s good as one half of Chazz and Jimmy's rival duo. Same for the other half of that duo – Amy Poehler. Like I said earlier, Ferrell bangs too. There's not gonna be an Oscar nomination for anyone here, but that’s not the point. Just some good laughs!

HBG, FKA "Chicken Leg Icon" [Netflix Party]: Jon Heder wears lip gloss better than me.

  1. WHO'S THE DIRECTOR? WHAT DID THEY DO HERE?

RB: Josh Gorden and Will Speck directed this film. If you're thinking, 'Who the hell are these guys?' – that's exactly right. Who are they?? They’ve barely directed anything. A Grazia article titled "Who Is Will Speck? Everything You Need to Know About Jennifer Aniston's Friend" handily gives away a few details. But yeah… no idea how these bros ended up making this film with a bunch of genuinely quite big Hollywood comedians and then releasing nothing much else of note. The movie industry is mental.

EG: Too add to the confusion – while brothers Jeff and Craig Cox are listed as scriptwriters, it was actually Busy Philipps who came up with the story. In her 2018 memoir This Will Only Hurt a Little, Philipps writes that the origins of the idea came from a time she and Craig (her boyfriend at the time) were watching a skating competition, and she said how terrific it would be to write a comedy about the cutthroat world of men's skating. Philipps also fleshed out the script, but the Cox brothers dropped her name from it. A subsequent oral history of the film on Nerdist erases her contributions altogether, claiming the Cox brothers first came up with the idea and wrote the screenplay. This is all reasonably well known now, but Philipps has said that having her rightful credit denied by Jeff and Craig was "really traumatic and disastrous". So that makes me feel sad. Busy Philipps is extremely funny and well connected to the Judd Apatow extended universe, though, so this story does go some way to explaining how a bunch of men came seemingly out of nowhere to create a solid gold comedy with a completely random subject matter.

John Greenfield [email]: What they've done here is create a monster of a silly movie. I'm no expert, but the editing seems genius. Not a bit of fat on this one, yet it flows seamlessly.

EG: I'm especially fond of the transition where Will Ferrell vomits aggressively into his wizard costume, then it immediately cuts to a blender mixing up a smoothie or something. Inspired.

  1. BEST SCENE?

RB: The scene where Will Arnett and Amy Poehler’s characters skate out their routine to Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations" is jokes. Come to think of it, that song is a proper ice rink tune. Takes me back to my days as a 13-year-old, skating up to girls at the Friday Night Ice Disco and feeling fresh. The best scene, though, has to be Chazz at a Sex Addict Anonymous meeting. Everyone’s just eyeing one another up and looking to bang. Those meetings might not be like that IRL, but that scene did touch on a fundamental flaw I had never thought about before.

EG: Between incestuous brother-sister duo Will Arnett and Amy Poehler doing a routine as JFK and Marilyn Monroe, and the chase scene between Will Ferrell and Will Arnett where they stagger through the mall in costume and their ice skates get jammed on the escalators… I just don’t think I can choose.

John Greenfield [email]: The bit where Will Ferrel throws up in an animal suit because he's a deadbeat drunk who's half-given up.

  1. WHAT’S COOL ABOUT IT?

EG: The outfits took my breath away. The patterns, the fabrics, the leathers, the animal print… honestly, Tiger King whomst. Everyone involved in hair, make-up, wardrobe and costume design for this motion picture, please take a bow.

David Martin [email]: The threads were sweet as fuck. It's renewed my love of 80s sportswear and leather trousers, every scene had sweet clobber. Once lockdown is finished I'm getting my three-stripe monogrammed then getting chinned in a car park on its first run out. Die for what you love.

Bella [Netflix Party]: Wig budget off the scale.

Pizza Icon [Netflix Party]: Some top hair in this. "Fuck the o-zone" hairspray.

Day [Netflix Party]: If I was an extra in this I’d be nicking so much shit. Rocking up in a Yates in some sweet stuff.

Mac Attack [Netflix Party]: Even the extras got some mad garms.

RB: I want to say Chazz Michael Michaels is cool, but he’s really not at all. In hindsight, the scene that's sampled by Kanye West and Jay Z in "N***** In Paris" is pretty cool. For those who don’t know… it’s the intro to the song, where Ferrell is sampled saying, "We skate to one song and one song only," and the interlude, where he says, "No one knows what it means… it’s provocative."

  1. DOES IT ILLUMINATE ANYTHING ABOUT OUR CURRENT PANDEMIC PREDICAMENT?

John Greenfield [email]: That a good laugh is sorely needed. I'd forgotten about this film and you guys reminded me of it, so I'd also add: the usefulness of the internet in the current situation?

EG: I agree. I’ve long been an advocate of for-the-sake-of-it comedy, but in these dark times Blades of Glory has radicalised me into one woman banter task force.

Jack [Netflix Party]: My hair is going to look like Will Ferrell’s wig when this is all over.

RB: Naaaaaaaaaaaaah.

@emmaggarland & @ryanbassil