Case de mi Padre, 2012.
Directed by Matt Piedmont.
Starring Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Génesis Rodríguez.
When their father's ranch encounters financial difficulties, two scheming brothers set out to make some quick cash, only to find themselves at war with a feared Mexican drug lord.
Casa de mi Padre, the directorial debut of Saturday Night Live alumnus Matt Piedmont and starring beloved funny-man Will Ferrell (Anchorman, The Other Guys), is a feature-length parody of Spanish and South-American telenovelas (soap dramas that tend towards melodrama). The main twist of Casa de mi Padre is that the majority of the film is spoken in Spanish.
Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, a passionate but dim man who works on his father’s failing ranch in Mexico. His rich brother, Raul (Diego Luna; Y Tu Mama Tambien) returns to save the ranch, much to his father’s happiness, and brings along his fiancé, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez; Man on a Ledge). Through the course of the film, Armando is conflicted between his feelings for Sonia and loyalty to his family, while Sonia’s presence involves the Alvarez family with evil drug baron, the Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal; The Motorcycle Diaries).
The whole thing feels like an extended sketch based on parodying Latino telenovelas, mainly by making fun of the overly serious and melodramatic storylines, as well as poking fun at poor production values (such as cheap props, obviously fake sets and continuity errors). There are probably puns and word play using the Spanish language as well (Farrell’s forced yet fairly respectable delivery of the Spanish dialogue also seems to be intended as a joke) but as I’m not a native Spanish speaker, this jokes went over my head.
And that’s the main problem with the film. It is funny, but unless you’re fanatic about Will Ferrell, aware of the telenovela genre or a Spanish speaker (and I’m only one of these things) it’s hard to tell who this will appeal to. A number of the jokes may go over your head or simply not register with you, and how funny you find the central gag (i.e. Will Farrell is speaking Spanish) will depend on your mileage. It’s also just 84 minutes, which is also quite short, but also means, for me at least, that the film did not outstay its welcome. Essentially, it’s just a very padded SNL sketch, but thankfully it never came across as mean-spirited or insulting to Mexicans.
There are also some jokes that simply fall flat. Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) appears as a DEA agent, but his character is not particularly funny and not given enough material to be truly satirical. On the other hand, the Spanish actors all give great performances and are very funny. Garcia Bernal is a delight, as he plays a particularly self-deprecating part which seems to be making fun of his usual ultra-cool persona, so it’s good to see him do something quite different.
Other all, I found Casa de mi Padre funny and entertaining, but not Ferrell’s best. Plus, with its short running time and arguably thin material, I find it hard to give it much recommendation. Avoid the DVD and wait for it to find its way onto TV.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Graham is a writer and graduate. If you enjoyed this review, follow him @LukeWGraham and check out his blog here.