“Blades of Glory,” starring Jon Heder and Will Ferrell as a mismatched competitive figure skating duo, faithfully follows the template of your typical Hollywood sports movie, though it also takes a few moments to wink at it. The movie also follows the template of the typical Will Ferrell sports movie – in which a protagonist whose brain cells are far exceeded by ego strength goes from callowness to hard-won maturity – which, of course, is the real prize, not the blue ribbon or first place he ends up with. In various movies, Will has been redeemed by the power of coaching Little League or race-car driving, but in “Blades of Glory,” it is skating that achieves this for him and Jon. Here’s how:
1. Thou shalt suffer adversity as a child, even if just in flashbacks.
Will’s character is quasi-homeless and a former street punk, whereas Jon is an orphan raised by a rich businessman, who disowns him after he gets barred from the sport as an adult.
2. Thou shalt begin the movie as a cocky no-nothing of the ways of real life, although successful in their field.
Both Will and Jon, although successful skaters, are basically insecure little boys in grown men’s bodies, as shown because they can’t be in the same vicinity for very long without erupting into a fight. This has consequences when they disrupt an awards ceremony and are banned from competition.
3. Thou shalt seek an unconventional mentor to aid them on their way in their quest.
Here, it’s Jon’s former coach, Craig T. Nelson (who actually starred in a sitcom called “Coach”), who reluctantly takes the squabbling duo on. He fits the mold nicely.
4. Thou shalt face prejudice of some sort on their way in their quest.
Here it’s homophobia, as Jon and Will find a loophole that lets them compete in pairs together. Various fans and figures in the skating world aren’t shy about voicing their horror and disbelief.
5. Thou shalt go up against a truly vile main competitor.
In this case, it’s an incestuous pair of siblings, played with gusto by Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, who are not pleased at having to share the media spotlight – much less with two “freaks.” They’re also really mean to their sister (Jenna Fischer) who they blame for their parents’ death in an accident.
6. Thou shalt have an adorable love interest.
OK, this is every movie with an underdog (or dogs). Here it’s virginal Jon hooking up with the equally chaste and sweet Jenna. They have a rather PG-date scene involving Sno-Cones. Perhaps to balance this sugar, Will’s character is a self-proclaimed sex addict who goes to actual meetings.
7. Thou shalt have to risk life and limb in order to be a contender.
In the double standard of such movies, when the rivals break the rules, they deserve to be punished, but when the heroes go out on a limb and try something risky, they are to be commended. Here it’s a move called the Iron Lotus from North Korea, which has actually resulted in beheadings.
8. Thou shalt face a number of obstacles after arriving at the big event, prior and during competing.
This means a quasi-kidnapping, which leads to a struggle to get to the ice in time. But that pales when an injury forces Will and Jon to switch places – and thus try the Iron Lotus in a way they have never before done.
9. Thou shalt have a scene in which a declaration of love, friendship, etc. is made with flair.
Will, having blundered into helping split up Jon and Jenna, does this to cheers from the championship crowd. And laughs from the viewer.
10. Thou shalt win big while their competitors lose embarrassingly.
Of course, Will and Jon wind up triumphing, while Amy and Will are caught cheating and hauled off in shame by the authorities.
Happy New Year!