Will has a way with the gags

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - David Stratton

IF you’re in the mood for a silly com­edy filled with belly laughs and if Tal­ladega Nights pro­vided you with a fun night at the movies, Blades of Glory is for you. It’s not for ev­ery­one: lovers of sub­tlety, irony and nu­ance should stay away. But this is a Will Fer­rell ve­hi­cle and for his fans that will be enough.

It took me a while to warm to Fer­rell: his big, boofy style grated and I didn’t think much of Elf or An­chor­man , but he made Be­witched work, af­ter a fash­ion, and when he teamed with good direc­tors ( Woody Allen on Melinda and Melinda , Marc Forster on Stranger than Fiction ) he could de­liver strik­ing per­for­mances.

He’s a bit like Bill Murray, who started off low­brow and grad­u­ally evolved his art into a form of min­i­mal­ist com­edy that is now beau­ti­ful to be­hold.

For Fer­rell, Blades of Glory is a re­turn to low­brow: it’s ut­terly ridicu­lous, but it’s well aware of the fact, and that’s what makes it so funny. That and the teaming of Fer­rell with Jon Heder, who made his rep­u­ta­tion with the ul­ti­mate slacker com­edy, Napoleon Dy­na­mite .

Partly what makes the film so funny is that its sub­ject, ice- skat­ing, is such a grace­ful pur­suit that just to see the un­gainly Fer­rell tackle it is a joke in it­self. He plays Chazz Michael Michaels, a fig­ure- skat­ing champ who brings sex­ual in­nu­endo to the rink to the de­light of shriek­ing fe­male fans. This ‘‘ leather- clad Lothario’’ is, as a com­men­ta­tor en­thuses, ‘‘ sex on ice, a tsunami of swag­ger!’’. His chief ri­val is the ef­fem­i­nate but tal­ented Jimmy MacEl­roy ( Heder). When they tie in an in­ter­na­tional con­test, their pub­licly ex­pressed bad feel­ings to­wards one an­other lead to both be­ing banned for life.

But the ban af­fects only solo, not tan­dem, acts. Skat­ing teams have al­ways been male- fe­male, but there’s noth­ing in the rules about gen­der, so it’s not long be­fore the un­likely duo is teamed as a dou­ble act, a con­cept that pro­duces im­prob­a­bly hi­lar­i­ous fun and plenty of ami­able gay- themed, Ly­cra- clad in­nu­endo. Will Speck and Josh Gor­don di­rected this non­sense and they’ve used dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to make the wacky skat­ing scenes look mod­er­ately plau­si­ble.

The sup­port­ing cast in­cludes Will Ar­nett and Amy Poehler as mar­ried ri­vals who at­tempt to sabotage Chazz and Jimmy and who think noth­ing of us­ing their younger sis­ter, Jenna Fis­cher, as a sex­ual pawn.

In fact, one of the in­trigu­ing el­e­ments in Blades of Glory is the level of bad taste the film man­ages to en­com­pass while still re­main­ing firmly in the realm of fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment.

* * * THE sec­ond in a se­ries, Fan­tas­tic Four: Rise of the Sil­ver Surfer is again di­rected by Tim Story and, like its pre­de­ces­sor, is aimed squarely at pre­teens. Adults need not bother.

The most pop­u­lar of the comic book su­per­heroes cre­ated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ( Lee is given a cameo ap­pear­ance), the four — Mr Fan­tas­tic ( Ioan Gruf­fudd), who can ex­pand his ex­trem­i­ties, the In­vis­i­ble Wo­man ( Jes­sica Alba), Hu­man Torch ( Chris Evans) and the Miche­lin­Man- like Michael Chik­lis — here em­bark on a new mis­sion to save the world and de­feat the nasty Vic­tor Von Doom ( Ju­lian McMa­hon). They also have a new an­tag­o­nist, the Sil­ver Surfer ( voiced by Lau­rence Fish­burne), who glides through the air while cre­at­ing may­hem from Lon­don to Hong Kong.

As with the pre­vi­ous film, which was re­leased two years ago, the spe­cial ef­fects are far more in­ter­est­ing than the rou­tine plot or the card­board char­ac­ters, but his­to­ri­ans of pop cul­ture should note that the film em­braces themes of ter­ror­ism and tor­ture with­out miss­ing a beat.

* * * THE Nancy Drew books were writ­ten by Carolyn Keene ( a pseu­do­nym cov­er­ing a syn­di­cate of writ­ers) in the 1930s and four of them were filmed in 1938- 39 as B pic­tures, with Bonita Granville as the teenage girl de­tec­tive. It seems curious that Nancy is re­vived al­most 70 years later and even more curious that this char­ac­ter, who firmly be­longs to an­other era of teenage en­ter­tain­ment, should be up­dated to the present.

See­ing the primly dressed Nancy ( Emma Roberts) at­tend­ing the same school as a bunch of trendily garbed 21st- cen­tury young things, and fur­ther­more us­ing mo­bile phones and lap­tops as aids to her sleuthing, is star­tling.

The latest film, Nancy Drew, with a screen­play and di­rec­tion from Andrew Flem­ing, gives new mean­ing to the word bland.

Nancy and her dad move to Los An­ge­les, where Nancy sleuths the fate of a film star of the ’ 70s while be­friend­ing 12- year- old Corky, played by Josh Flit­ter. Flit­ter is the main rea­son to see the film: a cocky, pudgy scene- stealer, he has all the con­fi­dence of a young Mickey Rooney and when he’s on screen this still­born ex­er­cise be­comes, for a while, watch­able.

Ice­ca­pades: Fig­ure- skat­ing su­per­star Chazz Michael Michaels ( Will Fer­rell, cen­tre) isn’t averse to bond­ing with his ad­mir­ers be­tween shows in the light and easy com­edy Blades of Glory

Rocky road: Michael Chik­lis as su­per­hero Ben Grimm comes to grips with Ju­lian McMa­hon in Fan­tas­tic Four

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