On Edge (March 13/04)
After the recent release of another faux documentary, Comic Book: The Movie, it seemed clear that Christopher Guest is the only filmmaker that should be working within this genre. But while On Edge isn't quite up to the level of Guest's films, the characters eventually become endearing enough to keep us engaged through the film's many unsuccessful moments of comedy.
On Edge is a satirical look at figure skating, complete with appearances from actual skaters like Peter Carruthers and Kristi Yamaguchi. The film follows three women vying for the top prize at a regional championship, with the winner a step closer to the Olympics. We're introduced to each through interviews with the movie's fictional director, Professor Robinson (Chris Hogan): Veda (Barret Swatek), whose determination stems from her fiercely competitive mother (played by Wendie Malick); Wendy (Marissa Jaret Winokur), an overweight skater with genuine talent; and J.C. Cain (A.J. Langer), a trash-talking bad girl who wants nothing more than to become a professional skater in Florida.
It takes a good half hour for On Edge to take off, as the majority of the film's jokes don't really work. There are a lot of jabs at the world of professional ice skating, and it often feels as though a more extensive knowledge of the sport is a prerequisite in enjoying the movie. But director Karl Slovin effectively keeps the story accessible to non-fans by including characters worth rooting for (it's impossible not to root for the fat girl who's trying to make it, as unlikely as that might be).
Co-stars like Jason Alexander (playing Zamboni Phil) and Kathy Griffin (as a "16-year-old" competitor) help give the film more widespread appeal, while the central performers do a nice job of taking these characters that are occasionally one-dimensional and turning them into people that we genuinely care about. But too much of the humor in On Edge is of the over-the-top variety, and it occasionally feels as though Slovin wants us to laugh at these characters instead of with them (the skating twins that do a routine dressed as dogs is a good example of this). Real-life skater Scott Hamilton, playing a judge, gives a horribly broad performance and proves that he should probably stick to his day job.
On Edge is a cute and innocuous little movie that'll probably thrill fans of figure skating, but also keep neophytes reasonably entertained. And hey, any movie that features John Glover as a washed-out Russian figure skater can't be all that bad.