Story Highlights• "Blades of Glory" works because of Will Ferrell
• Co-star Jon Heder has his moments
• Actors play a pair of male figure skaters
By Tom Charity
Special to CNN
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(CNN) -- They say that figure skating requires the elegance of a royal court, the grace of a ballerina, the speed of a sprinter, the balance of a tightrope walker, the endurance of a marathon runner, the coordination of a juggler, the strength of a high jumper and the rhythm of a dancer.
So Will Ferrell's surely not the first name that comes to mind when considering the sport.
But once you've seen him hit the rink in body-hugging red spandex with a "cowboy" leather jacket and chaps, there's no looking away. In "Blades of Glory," he is Chazz Michael Michaels, the bad boy of figure skating, "sex on ice."
Jon Heder is Jimmy MacElroy, Chazz's fiercest rival and also his polar opposite: a classical skater who embodies the elegance, grace and beauty of the sport. The first time we see MacElroy strut his stuff he's wearing his famous purple peacock combination, complete with tail feathers and glove puppet. (Watch Ferrell and Heder get revealing )
When raunchy, rebellious Chazz has to share the winners' podium with winsome, antiseptic Jimmy, push comes to shove and they are soon trading blows in front of shocked fans and dignitaries -- and a TV audience of millions. They're both banned from the sport for life.
But three years later, the two washouts realize there is a loophole in the ruling. They could still compete, but only if they team up as a pair.
It's an irresistibly silly idea (though not one the International Olympics Committee is likely to countenance any time soon) and "Blades of Glory" knows just where the comedy gold is hidden.
"What do you two have that the other teams don't?" demands grizzled coach Craig T. Nelson.
"Two [penises]," says Chazz.
Letting it all hang out
Ferrell -- who gave Sacha Baron Cohen a long, passionate kiss in "Talladega Nights" and who has stripped in pretty much everything except "Elf" -- knows that sexual humiliation earns big yuks. The film's artfully choreographed guy-on-guy action is a laugh riot. In what must be considered the movie's money shot, Ferrell grits his teeth and gingerly hoists his partner above his head by his crotch. Man, that's gotta hurt.
Refreshingly, especially after the shrill disavowals of male intimacy throughout "Wild Hogs," "Blades of Glory" permits its hetero heroes to get beyond the wince factor and bond -- and not just in a fistfight, either.
Although he doesn't get script credit and he's not working with regular collaborator Adam McKay here (it's actually co-directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, with a screenplay credited to Jeff and Craig Cox, among others), Ferrell remains the movie's alpha male.
Sporting a Jim Morrison 'do and bringing his voice down an octave, he makes self-confessed sex addict Chazz another in his long line of vainglorious dunderheads. "He's still playing George Bush," a colleague whispered to me -- and if he isn't, he's playing Ricky Bobby's second cousin.
But Farrell's flamboyant oafs remain endearing for their guileless childishness, "mind-bottling" way with words, and the star's willingness to let it all hang out ("I thought you'd like to see what a real skater's body looks like," he tells Jimmy over his paunch).
Heder, blond-haired and modeling a series of pastel turtlenecks, has less to play with. It's like putting Donny Osmond up against John McEnroe. But the toothsome "Napoleon Dynamite" star holds up his end in the petulant squabbles that make up the bulk of the off-ice time, and he appears to know his lutz from his salchow.
Too vindictive for comfort, Will Arnett and Amy Poehler are the creepy brother-and-sister ice-dancing champs, Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg, ersatz heavies in matching pink tulle (props to costume designer Julie Weiss, who clearly had herself a ball).
"Blades of Glory" takes a soft target and runs rings around it for 93 amusing minutes. Ferrell isn't breaking new ground, but one day -- when he's branching out to play psycho killers and getting in touch with his inner Thespian -- we'll look back on his clowning period and wonder why he would want to do anything else.
"Blades of Glory" is rated PG-13 and runs 93 minutes. For Entertainment Weekly's take, click here.
In "Blades of Glory," Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play dueling figure skaters who have to team up.