Casa de mi Padre (2012) / Comedy-Western
MPAA rated: R for bloody violence, language, some sexual content, nudity, and drug use
Running time: 84 min.
Cast: Will Ferrell, Genesis Rodriguez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Nick Offerman, Efren Ramirez
Small role: Dan Haggerty, Molly Shannon, Kris Kristofferson (voice)
Director: Matt Piedmont
Screenplay: Andrew Steele
Review published April 28, 2013
Casa de mi Padre is another case of what happens when what could easily have been a very good 5 or 10-minute 'Funny or Die' short gets conceived of as a feature-length motion picture release. It's a bit thin in ideas to cover 90 minutes of screen time. And that's even with the music video intro montage sung by Christina Aguilera, a commercial by Dan Haggerty at the end credits, and several instances of padded-out laughter by Will Ferrell (Semi-Pro, Blades of Glory) and his cast. Outside of outtakes, I doubt there are many deleted scenes one might collect from the home video release, as they all appear to have been necessary to include in the final cut, if only to get the film to its meager 84-minute run time.
And yet, I have to admit, I still have a soft spot for the film, despite major flaws that keep me from being able to recommend it wholeheartedly.
Although the tone and aim of the film runs all over the map, at its core, Casa de mi Padre is a satire on Mexican westerns (which borrow heavily from spaghetti westerns) and telenovelas (aka, akin to American soap operas, but with targeted runs). The entire film, with the exception of a few moments featuring Nick Offerman (The Men Who Stare at Goats, Sin City) as an American DEA agent, is done in Spanish, including nearly every line by Ferrell, who spent weeks working on his accent to at least get his inflections to a respectable level.
One major problem with the parody: Not many English speakers will be familiar enough with the genre to understand many of the references, while not enough Spanish speakers will be in tune with the deadpan absurdity that marks the style of most Will Ferrell releases. In short, it's a film with a thinly defined audience, mostly appealing to people who like perpetual (and intentional) inanity and films that are so bizarre that they strike a funny bone just for sheer audacity.
The plot, such as it is, follows Armando Alvarez (Ferrell), a bachelor rancher working his father's (Armendariz, The Legend of Zorro) land who has yet to meet the woman good enough in his eyes to be with him. Perhaps a bit of jealousy overtakes Armando when his younger brother Raul (Luna, Criminal) brings home his gorgeous new fiancée, Sonia (Rodriguez, Man on a Ledge) looking to get their father's blessing to marry. Unbeknownst to Armando, Raul is making his money as a drug dealer, and he has ruffled the wrong feathers by moving in on the turf of a murderous drug lord named La Onza (Bernal, Blindness), a name that both means a kind of leopard, as well as 'ounce', in Spanish.
While I like Casa de mi Padre well enough in small bits, as a full length movie, it does prove to be quite a test in patience. It's too scattershot in delivery to maintain momentum, garnering a chuckle here and there when something truly bizarre happens, such as instances of obvious artifice that includes phony backdrops, obvious miniatures, and very fake-looking animatronic desert animals. Some audience members will come to appreciate how much first-time feature film director Piedmont and screenwriter Steele (The Ladies Man), frequent collaborators with Ferrell in his sketch comedy stints, will reach in order to get a laugh, while others will just see most of it as desperation of filmmakers who had an idea and didn't know where to go with it. One wonders what might have resulted had Robert Rodriguez helmed this grindhouse-esque spoof.
Liking Casa de mi Padre takes a concerted willingness on the part of its audience to overlook its lulls and lack of focus. If you can keep expectations of big laughs to a minimum, you just might find yourself snickering at the film's silliest notions (for instance, Armando can't seem to roll a decent cigarette, no matter how many times he tries).
My personal take: I liked the risk-taking involved, and I did laugh at enough of the sillier spots to think it modestly worth the time spent, though I will say that I have laughed more at the similarly themed "Conando" segments on the Conan O'Brien show, which took only a fraction of the time. Nevertheless, this certainly will tickle the funny bone of some people, especially lovers of old Telemundo and die-hard Ferrell fans who don't mind subtitles. Expectations of a laugh riot will definitely need to be kept in check; it is more of a cult novelty than a fully-realized film.
©2013 Vince Leo