Repetitious humor of 'Casa de mi Padre' runs out of steam long before film's end
"Casa de mi Padre" is a particularly bizarre addition to Will Ferrell's comedy oeuvre. It's an American-produced, Spanish language movie where Will Ferrell speaks Spanish the whole time against actual Spanish actors. In concept, it seems like it would be a five-minute "Funny Or Die" skit, which should not be surprising because it was produced by F.O.D. owners Ferrell and Adam McKay (who directed "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights"). Despite some hilarious scenes, "Casa de mi Padre" feels like it would be more fitting to short form.
Armando Alvarez (Ferrell) is a lover of the land and ranch his father owns, and he wishes to take it over some day. However, his brother Paul (Diego Luna), after coming back home with fiancÃ©e Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), is his father's choice to inherit the farm because he feels Armando is too incompetent. But when Paul gets mixed up with local drug lord the Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), a war ensues that finds Armando stepping up to defend his heritage and fall in love with Sonia.
Full disclosure: "Casa de mi Padre" is the definition of a niche film. If you haven't stopped reading after the first paragraph, then you might be a part of the niche interested in the movie. In addition to being a Spanish language American film, the sense of humor will appeal most to those who watch Spanish telenovelas (Spanish soap operas). Are you still with this?
Even though I've only come across Spanish soap operas in passing, I was able to understand where many of the jokes came from. The majority of them lampoon the ridiculously melodramatic nature of soap opera acting and dialogue, as well as the technical flubs and low budget effects that come into play. Luckily, I found much of this funny, although the movie tends to rely on this type of humor as a crutch. By the end of the short, 80-minute running time, the joke of having a cheaply painted background or laughable special effects (an animatronics-controlled leopard) wore old by a certain point.
Thankfully, Ferrell dials down the man-child persona that he typically uses in his Adam McKay-directed features, and his handle of the Spanish language is impeccable (or so I am told by friends). The many Spanish actors surrounding him tend to overshadow him, though, especially Gael Garcia Bernal who plays the Onza, who is having a blast chewing the scenery and playing up the charm in his villainous role. There's a running bit where he lights up a cigar every time he has a conversation with somebody, which leads to an unexpectedly absurd and funny joke where he lights up two cigars while having two conversations at the same time, and Bernal plays it completely straight.
It's this form of absurdist humor that is familiar to fans of Will Ferrell's style and allows those unfamiliar with the material being spoofed to get some mild enjoyment out of it. In the same scene with the cigars, the overly melodramatic tone is funny enough, but once Bernal pulls dirt out of thin air to explain how important the land is, the joke really hits home.
I only wish that "Casa de mi Padre" had managed to be more diverse in its jokes and didn't spread itself so thin even at such a short running time. When compared to Ferrell's other output, it rests somewhere in the lower middle in terms of quality, better than "Semi Pro" and "The Other Guys" (which I did not enjoy) but not up to the level of "Anchorman" or even the overrated "Step Brothers." It won't appeal to a big audience, but I'm sure there are those out there that will enjoy it more than I did.
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