'Blades,' a guilty pleasure, cuts too close to the bone

Posted: March 30, 2007

One reason people respond to "300" and its rousing story of a few standing against many is that most of us, in one way or another, are besieged.

Parents, for instance, must stand like Spartans astride the narrow pass that separates their kids from the modern media and its million-man army of Internet pornographers, chat-room creeps, raunchy lyrics, booty-shakin' videos, slasher flicks, etc.

A simple search for something to do on movie night can turn into a minefield.

Take, for instance, the goofball comedy "Blades of Glory," which your kids may want to see because the ads are in heavy rotation on ESPN.

Will Ferrell and the "Napoleon Dynamite" guy as figure skaters - how racy could it be? It's not like it's rated R. It's PG-13, which means you're allowed maybe one "F" bomb.

Or that's what it used to mean.

What does it mean now?

Here's what it means if you're taking a nine-year-old. You'll be watching, and Ferrell will inform Nancy Kerrigan that she's given him a "boner" and even before you feel the tug-tug on your jacket sleeve, you know there's a nettlesome question on the way.

"Dad, what's a boner?"

Well, it's a, uh, it's . . . Hey, look! Milk Duds.

A few minutes later - tug-tug.

"Dad, what's a whore?"

Well, it's a, uh, a girl with too many boyfriends.

A few minutes later - tug-tug.

"Dad, what's . . . ?"

And so forth.

We Spartans know this situation well. In fact, if I'm Leonidas, then Xerxes, weirdo king of the invading hordes, is Will Ferrell. My son and I both find him side-splittingly funny, and there is nothing like lowbrow comedy to cement the male bond. We can do the entire bridge sequence from "Anchorman," interchanging the Jack Black and Ferrell roles as we see fit.

Still, while an "Anchorman" vignette like, say, the jazz-flute sequence is comedy gold and grade-school certified, others are not. There is a desperate lunge for the clicker everytime Ferrell stands before Christina Applegate and has the problem with his "pleats."

You don't always get there in time.

And so, over time, and cable, your PG child graduates to PG-13, and to an R.

The 300 weaken, and finally yield.

Thermopylae falls.

So, to answer the outstanding question, what is a boner? In that sense that a boner is a mistake, it's taking a preteen to the seemingly innocuous "Blades," a slapstick extravaganza seasoned with more than the usual amount of off-color innuendo.

Ferrell plays a brash, narcissistic, sex-addicted (hence the movie's alarmingly blue hue) figure skater, a variation of the self-absorbed blowhard he's played before - a characterization that works because the real target of Ferrell's braying is always himself.

In "Blades," he has a rivalry with a sensitive, androgynous Bowie-clone (Jon Heder) that explodes one day into an ice brawl, leaving both banished to the oblivion of the ice follies.

A loophole in skating regs means they can compete as a pairs team, but can they set their rivalry aside? Craig T. Nelson is the tough-love coach who gets them to work together, even as a rival skate team (shades of Tonya Harding) schemes to knee-cap them.

"Blades of Glory" is directed by the two guys who make the Geico caveman commercials. They haven't made a first-rate Ferrell comedy, but they do understand the kind of absurdism and physical comedy prized by his fans.

God help me, I'm one. The challenge for me was covering my shamed face so I couldn't be seen laughing. The hands-down highlight: a grainy video tape, smuggled out of North Korea, showing the carnage that can result if Ferrell-Heder's signature skating maneuver is not performed with precision.

OK, so it won't win the Oscar.

But I'm not going to win parent of the year. *

Produced by Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld and John Jacobs, directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, written by Jeff Cox and Craig Cox, music by Theodore Shapiro, distributed by Paramount Pictures.

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