The Comic Dynamic of Blades of Glory

When rival figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) go ballistic in an embarrassing, no-holds-barred fight at the World Championships, they are stripped of their gold medals and banned from the sport for life. Now, three-and-a-half years on, they've found a loophole that will allow them to compete: if they can put aside their differences, they can skate together - in pairs' figure skating.

In Blades of Glory, the new comedy starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder, this comic pairing seems like a no brainer. In fact, with the highly bankable Will Ferrell involved in a project, I am sure that many studios would probably see it that way. However, having Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder involved also sweetens the pot. In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Will Ferrell had John C. Reilly to have fun with (as well as other funny people like Sascha Baron Cohen). In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Ferrell had Vince Vaughn, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell and a host of other jokesters to help maximize the chuckles. Now, for Blades of Glory in addition to John Heder, he has people like Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Nick Swardson to help carry the comedic load. Based on the names on the poster, however, this is really Ferrell and Heder's film.

These two seem to have mastered what can best be described as cross generational humor. They appeal to the young crowd with their slapstick antics, they appeal to a midrange crowd with their delivery and the tones of their humor, and they even get an older crowd because their films have subject matter (Nascar, Ice Skating) that manages to get them to turn up as well. Whether these audiences are at the theater at the same time is of no consequence, the bottomline is that they will show up. There is such a thing as a Will Ferrell movie and Blades of Glory certainly fits nicely into that category.

At first glance the comedic stylings of Ferrell and Heder might seem to be at odds with one another. Afterall, Ferrell is a very reactive performer. His jokes come from how he expresses himself and responds to various situations. Whereas with Heder he seems to take a more laid back approach. We see things happen to him in films like The Benchwarmers and School for Scoundrels. It is this yin and yang that seems like it will yield the strongest dynamic between these two players.

First of all, the premise of seeing these two on ice skates has a natural comedic component. The fact that they are also good on the ice helps play against type and in that way we don't really know what to expect. Also, since they are supposed to be champions, we know that whatever they do on the ice is going to have a flair that will all but abolish any straight faces in the audience. Secondly, take one look at the one sheet for this movie one can tell that Ferrell, Heder and especially the creative team behind Blades of Glory are going for a certain ironic-brand of comedy, where the sport of Ice Skating is as celebrated as it is ridiculed. Seeing these two men in their tight outfits, with their long flowing hair in poses that resemble something like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, one doesn't have to look hard to see the point of view that this film is taking. While not mean spirited, a Will Ferrell movie seems predicated on the idea of lampooning anything that seems to take itself too seriously. One can only wonder if in 20 or 30 years, somebody will make a film where they are lampooning Will Ferrell making a movie as he lampoons some subject or another?

It has been rumored that Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was greenlit over the logline, "Will Ferrell as a Nascar driver." While Columbia has backpedaled over the notion that that was enough to get a Will Ferrell movie made, something tells me that a similar logline was employed in order to get production ball rolling for Blades of Glory. I remember when I first heard about this film. It was a press junket for the The Benchwarmers. Jon Heder came into the room with his hair a lot more blonde and feathery than I remember it being, and I couldn't help but cover my mouth so that he wouldn't see me laughing. If that is any indication of of the "site gag"-styled humor that Blades of Glory is going to offer, one can only imagine what's going to happen to audiences when they see an entire film of it.

Audiences seem more fickle today than ever. What used to play in the past doesn't seem like it's a guarantee nowadays. With DVD windows shrinking and consumers able to really decide how they are going to get their media, it makes sense that studios would go out of their way to hedge their bets. In the ever finicky film business Blades of Glory starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder seems like the closest thing to a sure thing that there is.

Blades of Glory opens nationwide on March 30 from DreamWorks Pictures.

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