[Review] – Casa de Mi Padre

13 Apr

Title: Casa de Mi Padre
Year: 2012
Director: Matt Piedmont
Writer: Andrew Steele
Starring: Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Génesis Rodríguez, Nick Offerman, Efren Ramirez
MPAA Rating: R, bloody violence, language, some sexual content and drug use
Runtime: 84 min
IMDb Rating: 5.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Metacritic: 52

I’m a fan of Will Ferrell. I think with him you either are or you’re not, there’s no gray area when it comes to his brand of comedy. But I, for one, really love his stuff; I like him because even though he obviously appeals to a broad sort of audience, which is why he’s one of the most recognizable names in comedy, there’s something about him that’s still a bit off, a bit quirky and that doesn’t feel commercial. And, mostly, I love Will Ferrell because no matter who he’s playing, whether it’s Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or the great Brennan Huff in Step Brothers, he always brings this kind of vulnerable honesty to his roles, and no matter how ludicrous the stuff he’s doing on screen may be you always get the sense that at least he believes in it.

Casa de Mi Padre, the latest offering from Mr. Ferrell is the latest of those films of his that asks you not to take it seriously even though the characters in it all seem to be doing just that. The thing is, I didn’t end up loving it as much as I thought I would, and that’s coming from a Will Ferrell fan, so I’m guessing that if you’re not into his style already then this one won’t be the one to convert you. I still liked it enough, because I laughed just from reading the premise to this one, which sees Mr. Ferrell making a whole film in Spanish, taking a full-on telenovela approach to his style of comedy.

That general conceit is great, really. You have Mr. Ferrell making a whole film in Spanish. One in which he plays the son of a Mexican rancher, with a far more successful brother that comes back home with a ravishing fiancée that’s the niece of the dangerous local drug lord. Then we discover that the younger brother, played by Diego Luna, is trafficking drugs, so the drug lord, played by Gael García Bernal, who’s not so fond of the idea of a competitor, much less one planning to marry his niece, takes it badly and puts the Alvarez brothers and their ranch in danger.

While it’s very amusing, Casa de Mi Padre ends up being too thinly written for it to really work. Sure, the idea of Mr. Ferrell speaking Spanish throughout is very funny, but it’s only funny for so long, and once that trick runs its course you’re not left with all that much. So yes, funny as the joke this film is based on may be, it’s stretched for far too long, and you quickly get the sense that maybe Casa de Mi Padre would have been much better as some sort of very-awesome twenty-five minute short for Funny or Die.

Both director Matt Piedmont and writer Andrew Steele have won Emmy’s for being part of the writing staff of SNL (Mr. Piedmont from 1996 t0 2002; Mr. Steele from 1995 to 2008), so maybe that’s part of the reason why this film kind of feels like a skit from that show stretched beyond its breaking point. But like I said, whether you enjoy this one or not depends pretty much on how big a Will Ferrell you are, and how much you enjoy it depends on how long that one central joke lasts for you. In any case, at least this one is a short eighty-four minutes long, so it’s not as though it thinks it can beat it’s premise to the ground for a regular running time.

The quality I listed for my liking of Mr. Ferrell, that he takes the most ridiculous of things seriously, is in full display here though, and that’s a great thing. No matter how stupid the stuff that’s happening around him may be, he goes at the entire procedure with just the utmost seriousness and it makes it so funny. Not to mention that him speaking Spanish can be quite hilarious, even when what he’s saying isn’t funny at all, it just sounds funny the way he’s saying it with all that gravitas, making fun of the whole telenovela approach. The sets look all cheap and fake, the characters are so exaggerated; and it’s all done in the most deliberate of ways, there are certain things this film does to show you how fake it is, how amateur it all feels, to remind you that you are watching a “badly” made movie, and those bits worked for me even once the initial joke had ran its course.

For all its faults, those that it commits purposefully and otherwise, Casa de Mi Padre at least looks like a whole lot of fun to have shot. Will Ferrell is always down to do pretty much anything to get a laugh, and here that’s more clear than ever, and he’s just having a ball mocking all the telenovela trappings and speaking Spanish for an entire movie. Same for Mr. Luna and Mr. Bernal, who of course co-starred in Alfonso Cuarón‘s stellar Y Tu Mamá También; these two guys are just having a ball playing these roles, making them hilarious hyperboles of characters they no doubt saw a lot of on TV growing up in Mexico themselves.

As you can see, there are a lot of things about Casa de Mi Padre that I liked. I liked the actors, I liked how blatant this film was in how it took the piss out of the telenovela aesthetics, and I liked how goofy it was and how it didn’t pretend to be something more than it was. But for all the things I liked, I was prevented from really getting into it by the fact that I kept thinking that, as smart and funny as this conceit was, it was one meant for a Funny or Die video, or a short film or a joke trailer, not for a feature film, no matter how short and inconsequential that film was. But still, I’m a Will Ferrell fan, and you can be sure as hell I’m psyched for that Anchorman sequel.

Grade: B-

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