The cleverest stunt in "Blades of Glory" doesn't come on the ice, but in the movie's very concept: How do you make a knuckleheaded comedy for dudes, complete with vomit and jock-strap jokes, about the sequin-spangled world of figure skating?
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder execute their act wonderfully as two hapless Olympians forced to become the world's first same-sex skating couple. "As if figure skating wasn't gay enough," huffs one onscreen fan, handily pinpointing just why this movie is so funny: It not only mocks one of the least macho of sports, it also sends the whole concept of masculinity into a spin.
Essentially a love story between two straight doofuses who don't realize how "gay" they really are, "Blades of Glory" stars Heder (the gawky geek in "Napoleon Dynamite") as fair-haired skating champ Jimmy MacElroy, whose prissy routines include Cher-like costumes and a live dove. His polar opposite is Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell), a leather-clad bad boy who prefers to thrust his way across the ice to Billy Squier's "The Stroke." They're bitter enemies but, of course, destined to be together.
After a disgraceful public brawl, the two are banned from the Olympics for life. MacElroy ends up shelving stock in a sports store; Michaels sinks into an alcoholic stupor and resorts to skating in a kiddie revue. But with the help of a renegade coach (a wonderfully deadpan Craig T. Nelson), the rivals find a loophole in the regulations and make a last-minute bid to enter the Montreal Olympics as a pair. A mock cover of Sports Illustrated sums up the world's reaction: "What the Hell?"
If all this sounds a bit like "Zoolander," in which Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson played two preening male models, it's no accident: Stiller served as a co-producer here. He and Wilson could have taken these roles, but handing them over was a smart idea. Ferrell excels at playing lovable boors, and the slack-jawed Heder possesses a genuinely childlike quality. Together they make a terrific yin and yang -- or "Fire and Ice," as the team bills itself.
The duo gets a lot of laughs simply by assuming the suggestive positions so common to figure skating: Hands wrap around waists, crotches are shoved into faces. Is it homophobic to get a chuckle out of this? Not really. What's funny is watching the two men struggle to maintain their fragile facade of machismo.
And it is a facade. When the coach forces MacElroy to "be the girl" because Michaels is too fat, Michaels is stung. "I'm not fat!" he booms -- then immediately hits the treadmill with a pout.
The plot isn't much, but that's OK: The directing team of Will Speck and Josh Gordon throw their jokes at the wall in rapid succession, and most of them stick. The film also benefits from Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as a villainous brother-sister skate team whose climactic routine, based on JFK and Marilyn Monroe, is a wicked slice of satire.
While the guy-on-guy humor of "Blades of Glory" may fall just this side of political correctness, the movie isn't out to laugh at anyone in particular -- except, perhaps, figure skaters. And even they're in on the joke: Look for cameos from Scott Hamilton, Nancy Kerrigan and an impressively game Sasha Cohen.