Will Ferrell seems to be working his way through every sport ever covered on ESPN. With figure skating, he has found a target-rich environment for comedy. The collision of sport and showbiz is nowhere more intense than in an Olympic event that features what one of the characters in this movie would call “mind-bottling” feats of athleticism plus sparkly costumes and syrupy music.
Ferrell is Chazz Michael Michaels, a skating bad boy who comes out in cowboy gear and whose choreography seems to have been inspired in part by Chippendale’s. His archrival is Jimmy MacElroy (Napoleon Dynamite‘s Jon Heder), all rainbows and unicorns. He all but twinkles across the ice. When the two of them share a gold medal, they end up shoving each other off the podium and getting banned from competition.
After an unhappy period away from the big time, they are reunited through a loophole. They’ve been banned from singles competition, but not from pairs. And just because pairs have always been a man and a woman, well, does that mean it has to stay that way? Not in this movie!
So, after the obligatory resistance and hostility evolve into the obligatory mutual admiration and loyalty, they’re ready for the big time, competing against reigning champs, the brother and sister team Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (“Arrested Development”‘s Will Arnett and his real-life wife, “Saturday Night Live”‘s Amy Poehler).
The comedy may be predictable, but it keeps moving briskly, thanks in part to the conventions of sportscasting. Backstories are economically handled through “Up Close and Personal”-style summaries of the characters’ lives. Ferrell and Heder, who appear in one event as “Fire and Ice,” are well matched, Heder holding his own in his first adult role, one that allows him to be more than just a clueless doof. Not much more, of course — this is the story of two clueless doofs after all. But they are clueless doofs who train hard and dream big and we want to see them get the gold.
Parents should know that this movie is at the edge of an R, with very raunchy, gross, and crude humor, language, and situations, including a meeting of a support group for sex addicts and references to masturbation, condoms, incest, and adult films. There is comic peril and violence, including a “humorous” and somewhat graphic decapitation, a bow and arrow, many crotch hits, a reference to deaths in a car crash, and a joke about a possibly murderous stalker. Characters smoke and drink (including alcohol abuse) and there are drug references, including an overdose joke. Some audience members may be bothered by the portrayal of an adoptive father who abandons his son for making a mistake. There is also some intrusive product placement.
Families who see this movie should talk about the kinds of pressures athletes face from their families and coaches and from the press and the public. Why was winning so important to each of the characters? Why does Katie do what her brother and sister tell her?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Ferrell’s other movies, including Anchorman – The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (very raunchy humor) and the underrated Stranger Than Fiction. They may also enjoy some of the skating movies whose themes are spoofed here, including The Cutting Edge and Ice Castles. For a look at real-life figure skaters, including some who have cameos in this film, families can watch Olympic Figure Skating Greatest Performances In History Volume I and Volume II.