In his latest comedic venture, Will Ferrell plays the lead in a feature-length Spanish language telenovela…yes, you read that right. Casa De Mi Padre is the pitch perfect alchemy of Austin Powers level self-awareness and the gritty, over the top, filmed on a shoe-string budget films that inspired the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse revival. Casa de mi Padre is most definitely a film for movie lovers and a mixed bag of cheesy elements ripe with heavy doses of satire that pay homage to films of that era. Beyond that, Casa skillfully shoe-horns humor into every literally frame. From sight gags to awkward humor to pure WTF? sequences it impossible to catch all the loose-n-fast humor and in-jokes on first pass. You’ll leave the theater with your sides hurting while craving seconds, thirds and fourths of this unique comedic gem.
As one half of los hermanos Alvarez, Armando (Ferrell) is content to be a cattle rancher with no desire to leave his father’s ranch. His brother Raul (Diego Luna) has just returned home with his new fiance and seems pretty set financially. However Raul has been mixed up with Onza (Gael García Bernal), the leader of a local drug cartel who is not happy that Raul plans to marry his niece Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Jealousy arises and Onza plans to take Sonia back at any cost. The only way to save Sonia and save their father’s ranch is to stand up to Mexico’s most feared drug lord.
While any of that might seem serious and dramatic taken out of context this is merely the backdrop to one of the most well crafted, over the top and outright hysterical spoof films you’ll ever see (or “read” as the poster states). Ferrell is known for going all out, be it his delivery, his accents or any of his characters/celebrity impersonations. In Casa, Ferrell gives Armando his all and goes to great lengths to nail his Spanish, from that “people don’t really speak this way” proper Usted form right down to the grade school inflections and stone faced delivery. Be advised, this isn’t Ferrell taking his George Bush to Mexico, no Ferrell learned Spanish for the role and as a result plays a convincing Mexican who fits right in with the rest of the cast. The fact that he’s super serious is the joke and it gets funnier and funnier the more time you spend with them all. To try and describe Casa de mi Padre, aside from calling a spoof, probably wouldn’t make any sense, and to describe anything might take away the surprises to be had. In short, it’s Airplane in Mexico…but that’s not even totally accurate.
This whole endeavor was a definitely bit of a long shot as far as going for something authentic because, aside from the universal humor, Casa de mi Padre pokes fun at somethings that us Gringos may have trouble relating to. Still it’s no different than how Kung Pow made fun of all the old, poorly dubbed Chinese movies. Ferrell, director Matt Piedmont and writer Andrew Steele take great care to capture the look and feel of telenovelas for Casa De Mi Padre. There’s ludicrous action, laughably bad sets and then there’s the super serious dialog and tone that make this a triple threat in the humor department. Esoteric yes but as long as you know what you’re getting into there really will be something special for everyone in this pot luck parody. It’s a huge blender of ideas just crazy enough to work (including “missing reel” scenes and a nice little musical sequence*) and each one does so brilliantly. Further and more to Piedmont’s direction this story feels cohesive and not just a bunch of skits thrown together in sequence to fill the run time.
Comedians in general can be very divisive; either you like them or you don’t. Ferrell has his fans and non-fans. But to make something even more esoteric that his Robert Goulet impersonations this looks to cut the fan base again by half at least. But while this appears to be pure labor or love the team from Anchorman, Ferrell and company are content just making the film for themselves. Funny or Die was a pet project that became a monster hit. Perhaps this will too…only it might take a while for people to really get it. There’s not a gripe you can make about the film, aside from it not being your brand of humor, because any mistakes or problems are pretty much intentional.
Beyond that, what Casa De Mi Padre does best though are sight gags as the entire film has bad written all over it. From the intentionally cheap production value to poorly edited shots, intended framing/staging/continuity mistakes, bad filmmaking just runs rampant and each joke primed for a multitude of hearty laughs. If you’ve pointed and laughed at it in serious movies of the 70’s and 80’s you’ll just lose it when you see it on display here. Some things are subtle, others not so much but you can bet that even on the third or forth pass, you probably won’t catch all the jokes but it will be a treat seeing Will Ferrell and company on repeat viewings.
Shamelessly self-aware and riotously funny, this pitch perfect parody is destined to be a cult classic. Entirely esoteric but even so, the humor will hit home for those who know what they’re getting into. Casa De Mi Padre has taken terms like camp and parody to all new gut-busting levels yielding the best abdominal workout you’ll likely get at the cinema this year. In fact this film is layered with so many gags it’ll take you a handful of times to catch all the hidden humor. It’ll undoubtedly find its home with die-hard Ferrell fans and become a new landmark among spoof films…and please do stay for the credits.
*If you’re on the fence about Case de mi Padre, perhaps this clip, featuring Will Ferrell singing the song “Yo No Se” from the film, might help you decide. Enjoy!
For more Ferrell fun, click the following link to read (or watch) the Will Ferrell roundtable that Bill and I attended.