Will has a way with the gags
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