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Blades of Glory:’ Ferrell and Heder serve up laughs on ice

Tae Andrews | Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Film critics have pointed out that a secret cabal exists which runs the majority of Hollywood comedies these days. This group, known as the “Frat Pack” as both a play on Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” and a reference to the group’s collaboration on the smash comedy Old School, has members including Will Ferrell, brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jack Black.

This elite comedy circle has had collaborations on films such as “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Old School,” “Dodgeball,” “Starsky & Hutch,” and “Zoolander” – in other words, most of the funniest films to come out in the last decade.

These same haters have criticized that the comedy from this Frat Pack has become a bit formulaic – the fraternity brothers seem to just mix and match pairs for buddy comedies and sprinkle in impromptu cameos for added measure. Which might be a problem – if that formula wasn’t so damn funny.

“Blades of Glory” starts with a base of Frat Pack ringleader Will Ferrell, pairs it with Jon “Napoleon Dynamite”‘s Heder, then throws the two of them on skates as a male-on-male doubles team and lets hilarity ensue.

As he did in “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” Will Ferrell celebrates the mediocrity of the American male in “Blades of Glory” to hilarious effect. With his signature deadpan delivery of dimwit lines, penchant for inappropriate remarks and tendency to get naked, Ferrell scores again as Chazz Michael Michaels, a former singles skating champ who is banned from the sport for life after a fracas with Jimmy MacElroy, played by Jon Heder.

At this stage of his career, Ferrell’s acting is pretty much plug-and-play: throw him into any role as any professional and he’ll deliver. Ferrell is more or less the same in all of his performances (read: hilarious), but with a few subtle nuances. “Anchorman’s” Ron Burgundy was known for his blundering buffoonery and sexist remarks, whereas “Talladega Nights” saw Ferrell adding a twist to the usual routine with a Southern drawl as Ricky Bobby.

The common thread between all of his characters is their stupidity, immaturity and paranoid homophobia, which often becomes ironic as his characters engage in homoerotic interplay. Chazz Michael Michaels is much the same, with a few new twists: he’s still dumb as a brick and shows off far too much pasty man thigh, but boasts a rock star mentality and is a self-confessed sex addict.

By all accounts Jon Heder plays the “straight man” to Ferrell’s clownery, but this is ironic given the emasculating tendencies of his character, pretty boy Jimmy MacElroy, who sports a variety of flamboyant costumes throughout the movie. (At one point, Michaels and MacElroy have their coach tell them that MacElroy is to be the “female” in their male-on-male skating partnership.)

Who says typecasting is a bad thing? After the smashing success of Napoleon Dynamite, actor Jon Heder has more or less been rehashing that same persona in the few roles he’s had to date. “Blades of Glory” is more of the same, but also allows Heder the comedic edge of only having to chime in now and again as Ferrell carries the comedic tune.

By pulling in fellow comedians Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as brother-sister doubles skating pair Stranz van Waldenberg and Fairchild van Waldenberg, in addition to Jenna Fischer (of “The Office” fame) as their reluctant sister, screenplay writers Jeff and Craig Fox give the cast enough snappy lines to keep the laughs coming. The quote-ability factor is definitely in play here, as you will undoubtedly soon begin hearing people parrot some of the many hilarious lines from the film.

A common criticism of “Blades of Glory” is that it’s basically just the movie “Dodgeball” on ice (right down to a pair of side-splitting sportscasters). Well, “Dodgeball” went on to earn $114 at the box office (and perhaps more importantly, the much-coveted “Fresh” rating on rottentomatoes.com).

Does “Blades of Glory” have the same time-and-time-again re-watchability of Anchorman? No. But then again, how many comedies do? Is it full of one-liners and worth plopping down a few bucks to see at the local Cinemark? Yes.

In the end, the joke may be on all of us. After “Blades of Glory” kicked off with an opening weekend of $33 million, one thing’s for sure: Ferrell and his Frat Pack are laughing all the way to the bank.