Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder of "Napoleon Dynamite") skims across the ice at the World Winter Sports Games, his blond hair executing a picture-perfect ripple. Wearing a teal-blue unitard lavishly trimmed with peacock feathers, he delicately wafts a hand through the air; it's costumed as a peacock head. The commentators enthuse as he comes to the end of his routine, in which he releases a live white bird into the arena. Extra points from the judges! That bird, notes one awed announcer, was concealed in his costume the whole time — adding to the technical difficulty of the program.
This is the figure-skating comedy "Blades of Glory" — and part of why it's so funny is because it's not that far removed from the real figure-skating scene. (Didn't Johnny Weir do some bird-costume thing with his hand, not so long ago? No, no, not a real bird. Yet.) The sport, as even its fans know, can be a pretty goofy world, dripping in sequins, weird thematic programs, scary makeup, knee-whacking drama and all that strange flesh-colored mesh skaters wear to pretend to be more naked than they are. "Blades of Glory" takes all this and runs with it, and the result is a silly spoof that's often unexpectedly sweet.
Will Ferrell, in his usual man-child mode, plays Chazz Michael Michaels, a randy skating star who's Jimmy's polar opposite. Denouncing Jimmy's moves as "Cirque du So-Lame," he skates as if caught in a testosterone hurricane and cheerfully accepts the bras tossed to him by adoring female fans. (Parent alert: Chazz is a sex addict, though it's more discussed than shown.)
After Chazz and Jimmy get into a fight at the medal podium, they are disciplined by the skating federation and kicked out of the men's division in disgrace. Years pass, the World Winter Sports Games again approach and an idea dawns — why not compete again, but in the pairs division? There, the two are faced with formidable competition: Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler), a sinister brother-and-sister pair team who seem, well, rather more than kin.
All of this unfolds in the loose, messy, throw-it-at-the-wall way that Ferrell's comedies usually do (the more ambitious "Stranger Than Fiction" being an exception), but plenty of the humor sticks just fine. Arnett, whose Stranz is fond of posing alluringly on bearskin rugs (when he's just hanging around the house with his sisters), has an insane glee, and Heder's deadpan style merges nicely with Ferrell's wildness. Many of the skating moves, aided by an array of doubles and some clever special effects, deserve a 6.0: Ferrell and Heder's trademark crotch-crash (sorry, I can't describe it any other way); Arnett and Poehler's JFK-and-Marilyn themed program, complete with pill-popping; the dangerous Iron Lotus, a showy move with consequences rather worse than losing a sequin or two.
And, as if anyone needed proof that figure skating does have a sense of humor, plenty of the sports' biggest names turn up, in supporting roles (Scott Hamilton as a cheerfully yelling skating commentator) and cameos (Brian Boitano, Peggy Fleming, Nancy Kerrigan). Former U.S. champion Sasha Cohen, however, wins the good-sport award for her cameo in which she catches — and rapturously embraces — Chazz's sweaty jockstrap. A welcome change from roses, maybe?
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
"Blades of Glory," with Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, William Fichtner, Jenna Fischer, Craig T. Nelson. Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, from a screenplay by Jeff Cox, Craig Cox, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky.
93 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, a comic violent image and some drug references. Several theaters.