CASA DE MI PADRE Review

The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw the trailer for "Casa de mi Padre" was "genius". It was such a broad comedy idea, one that hearkened back to films like "Blazing Saddles" that I was rolling the entire two minutes the trailer lasted. I am also a huge fan of Will Ferrell and while I have always felt people are very divided on the comedian lately it has at least seemed that Ferrell has been attempting to do his best to provide a degree of diversity to his career. Last year his single release was the indie "Everything Must Go" that I rather enjoyed much more than I expected. Later this year he will continue his streak of big studio comedies with "The Campaign" that is likely to be in the tradition of "Anchorman", "Talladega", "Step Brothers", and "The Other Guys". What he has done here though is taken a gem of an idea and extended it to a feature length parody of the Spanish telenova. With it's intentionally low budget looks and over-dramatic performances "Casa de mi Padre" feels like an idea that Ferrell and his friends cooked up on the side as something to do in between bigger projects. Not that this is a bad thing, it has a few moments of pure greatness and the simple aspect of the commitment that Ferrell had to make in order to actually execute the biggest joke of the whole thing is commendable. I found myself glancing at the time a few times, this wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but seeing the running time of the film is a mere 84-minutes it only made me feel the steam was running a bit low in the second act. Luckily, the finale pretty much lives up to everything I could have hoped for this to be.

From Left: Manuel (Adrian Martinez), Esteban (Efren
Ramirez) and Armando (Will Ferrell) hang out
on their cherished land.
What feels like a flash in the pan idea has been fleshed out by including every possible stereotype of the Mexican culture and their campy soap opera's mixed with something like a spaghetti western that looks like it was lost in the VHS era circa 1975. This may sound a tad ridiculous and I guess that is ultimately the point. Like fans of Ferrell the broad response of this film will likely be the same. Those who don't look too critically upon it will see it simply as fun. Those who do not, and those who are not Ferrell fans will likely not be turned by this one, as it could easily be taken as nothing more than ridiculous. The set up includes Ferrell as Armando Alvarez speaking passable Spanish with English subtitles as a Mexican rancher that loves the land and loves hanging out with his friends Esteban (Efren "Pedro" Ramirez) and Manuel (Adrian Martinez). he has never been highly regarded by his father and has always played second string to his more intelligent brother Raul (Diego Luna). When Raul returns home to announce his marriage to Sonia Lopez (a gorgeous Genesis Rodriguez) it is clear Raul has become entangled in the game of drug trafficking and threatens to take over the territory of local drug kingpin Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). When Armando develops the hots for Sonia he is forced to face his past that has something to do with the death of his mother as well as saving his love from a death battle shoot out between Onza, Raul, and every other Mexican in the region where Armando bides his time.

Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) confronts Raul (Diego Luna)
about their conflicting drug business.
Though "Casa de mi Padre" is obviously an SNL-like skit that has been pushed to feature length, it still has a number of bits that land with just the perfect amount of comical grace. Such is the example where a big action scene should take place we are instead given a still photo of miniatures while a note from a crew member scrolls across giving us the reason for this unfortunate segment. It is these little quips that keep the movie from completely turning in on itself and hiding from the world. Ferrell also knows where to place a tune and how to make his character so innocent that he comes off genuinely sincere in situations where he is doing something that has nothing to do with the plot. This would probably bother a certain kind of viewer, but the random moments such as the ridiculous songs here are what makes this funnier that it would have been if they would have tried to play it straight without winking at the audience. This isn't to say the film doesn't have its missteps. There is a side plot that involves the great Nick Offerman (Parks & Rec) as a(nother) mustached American lawmen that is here to offer the racist view of how every Mexican is a drug dealer. Offerman certainly deserves more than this bit part and could have serviced the comedy much better were he given lines that really had bite rather than reminded us of jokes that have been around forever. There is also the fact the tone doesn't warrant itself a feature, rather it feels like it would have been more appropriate on the front page of the Funny or Die page. We all loved "The Landlord" but would it make a good feature? Exactly.

Armando protects the love of his life Sofia
(Genesis Rodriguez) from the law.
I can't be too hard on the film though as I land in the pool of opinion that this isn't supposed to be anything more than a harmless parody and in that regard it keeps its head above water. "Serious" actors such a Luna and Bernal seem to be having a blast here, playing up what they have probably had to deal with in every casting call they've been a part of and Ferrell, as always, is so damn committed to the thing that you feel bad not giving into his indulgences every once in a while. This doesn't have the aspirations of something that wasn't meant to be completely absurd. I mean, for heavens sake we have a scene of love making that uses mannequin body doubles and goes on for way too long. That is the charm of Ferrell though as he isn't afraid to bring the weird and not apologize at the end for what you might have thought you were getting yourself into and what he actually delivered. He was committed 100% so he has nothing to be sorry about. "Casa de mi Padre" though does end up being pretty much exactly what I expected, if not a little less outlandish than I anticipated. It's all well and good though, this isn't a movie for everyone but if you have been a Ferrell fan for most of his career you will be pleased with the majority of what we have here and Ferrell himself certainly doesn't disappoint as he holds this whole thing together with that face and vocal tone that proves even without the comfort of being able to improv his way out of a situation he can still be the funniest guy in the room. It may not be his funniest performance, but I can't disagree with the tagline in that this is probably the funniest movie I've ever read.