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MOVIE REVIEW: Heder gives skating spoof a lift

Jon Heder completes graceful maneuvers in "Blades of Glory." He maintains his poodle 'do as well as his dignity throughout a broad comedy about a male figure skating pair.

As elite skater Jimmy MacElroy, Heder ("Napoleon Dynamite") captures that blend of innocence and arrogance particular to specialized athletes inexperienced in the real world. His performance is a high point of the film -- even when he's not being hoisted by Will Ferrell.

Equal parts inspiration, perspiration and hairspray, "Blades of Glory" is silly and enjoyable but not as consistently funny as "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," Ferrell's last sports spoof.

Unencumbered, as always, by concern for his own dignity, Ferrell revives his Ron Burgundy macho persona as Chazz Michael Michaels. Jimmy's chief rival among individual skaters, Chazz is a hard-drinking womanizer with a leather wardrobe that could stage its own fringe festival.

Beloved by female fans, Chazz doesn't need fancy moves to drive 'em wild. Mostly he swaggers, if that's possible on ice skates.

Jimmy, by contrast, glides divinely while competing against Chazz at the world championships. A seeming wunderkind in a sequined one-sie, Heder appears to have mastered figure skating for the film. Either that, or directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon were crafty in using computer-generated effects.

Forced to share a gold medal, Chazz and Jimmy scuffle during the awards ceremony and draw lifetime bans from the sport. Promptly "unadopted" by his Svengali father (William Fichtner -- talk about ice), Jimmy finds work at a sports apparel store. Chazz performs in a kids ice show, in costume and under the influence.

Thanks to Jimmy's crazy yet conscientious stalker (Nick Swardson), things start to look brighter. Consulting the skating rule book, the stalker finds nothing to forbid Jimmy from pairs skating.

In the spirit of competition and comic contrivance, Jimmy and Chazz come together under the tutelage of a coach played by Craig T. Nelson. Rough-hewn but encouraging, this guy evokes Nelson's character from the sitcom "Coach" and Scott Glenn's track coach from "Personal Best."

"Blades of Glory" evokes "Personal Best" in a few ways, come to think of it. The feathered hair. The supportive- competitive relationship of the athletes, one blond, one brunette. The erotic charge between them.

OK, not so much on the last count. Though the film's premise demands jokes devoted to the proximity of men's bodies, the filmmakers rarely focus on the gay angle of figure skating. They're too focused on the groin-kick angle.

Ferrell and Heder's physical commitment keeps their pairs skating scenes lively as well as absurd. But the sports story line is ho-hum.

Will Arnett and Amy Poehler play the pair's chief rivals, a brother-sister team. Having these real-life spouses play siblings is a subversive touch. But their characters' conniving is too Boris and Natasha.

The chief selling point of their story line is the winsome Jenna Fischer (Pam from "The Office"), who plays the Arnett-Poehler pair's sister and Jimmy's love interest. Fischer endures some comic groping by Ferrell. But in a Ferrell film, that's part of the compulsories.

** 1/2 out of four stars.

Rated PG-13.

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