Blades of Glory (2007)
It's a rare and beautiful thing when commercial and artistic principles join in a manly embrace. But this is what has happened with Will Ferrell, funniest man alive. Because his films consistently gross gobs of money, he's allowed to do whatever he wants, and I feel all the richer for it. Let us not forget that comedy is an art form, and broad slapstick comedy is perhaps the toughest art form of all. It matters little that these films will never be awarded, never make a top ten list (except mine), or garner rapturous reviews. It doesn't matter because while the Stanley Kramers, the Ron Howards, and the Paul Haggises will fade into obscurity (onto TNT movie nights and lobotomized AFI lists), Will Ferrell's comedies will screen in perpetuity, alongside fellow lowbrow geniuses the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, and Leslie Nielson.
It's all in the face (and the hair). Like Nielson, Ferrell's comedy results equally from his dumbfounded reaction shots along with his absurdist one-liners. His slack-jawed stuttering, queasy lip-pinching and enraged vein popping fill in the gaps between jokes, extending them and enriching them, so even the occasional dud is filled with an unexpected guffaw.
Blades of Glory is no exception. I don't want to betray any of the gags, but the film embraces its idiotic premise with gleeful excess, loading itself with non-sequitors, expertly timed sight (and sound) gags, and some sublime wig-work. I'm still not sold on Jon Heder as a comic actor, his slow drawl seeming more lazy than deadpan to me, but he's capable enough here as the befuddled straight man. The rest of the cast is superb, especially Craig T. Nelson, who seems locked in to the straight-faced nonsense aesthetic from the get-go, his bitter figure-skating coach a toned down version of Rip Torn's Patches O'Houlihan from Dodgeball. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett also offer up delightful turns (and outfits) as the preening brother-sister pairs skating champs. Everything's done with ease and coviviality - it seems like Ferrell could crank out a few of these a year without breaking a sweat. Let's hope he does.
Next up for him is Semi-Pro, where he plays an owner-player-coach of a American Basketball Association team. It also stars Woody Harrelson and Andre Benjamin of Outkast. That's all I need to hear to make me all quivery inside.