Am I the only one who pictures a whole slew of Will Ferrell fans going into his newest film, Casa de mi Padre, only to exit a few minutes later when they realize that, yes, Will Ferrell has really made a Spanish language film?
If you've ever seen a telenovela, a genre of Mexican television and film mostly a mystery to American audiences, then you will likely have an idea of what to expect from Ferrell's latest cinematic, comic experiment. It's almost impossible to not admire Ferrell's willingness to try virtually anything.
I mean, really. What other comic do you know in America who would dare try a Spanish language film?
Cheech and Chong don't count.
Even if you end up hating the film, and you might, it's virtually impossible to not respect Ferrell's effort in bringing forth this low-budget ($6 million) indie comedy that is entirely a Spanish language film.
Let me repeat that again so that you don't run off to the theater and get ticked off because I didn't tell you. Casa de mi Padre isn't just occasional bits done in Spanish, it is a Spanish language film with English subtitles.
The weird thing?
For the most part, Ferrell pulls this sucker off.
Written by Andrew Steele and directed by Matt Piedmont, both part of Ferrell's comedy foundation from his SNL and Funny or Die days, Casa de mi Padre will likely be mostly misunderstood by critics and audiences who will likely stay away in droves just like they have from most of Ferrell's dramatic projects. That's really a shame, because anyone truly familiar with cinematic history will find at least something to enjoy in this film. Casa de mi Padre features a top notch cast, a cast that clearly gets what Ferrell is trying to do here and they all manage to stay on the same page and have quite a bit of fun doing so.
Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, the elder son of a Mexican rancher (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.) whose ranch is in dire financial straits. When the younger son (Diego Luna) returns having become an overwhelming financial success, with a really hot girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez), it seems as if the ranch will be saved. Unfortunately, it's quickly learned that the younger son's wealth wasn't exactly legitimately earned and soon the family is pitted against a major Mexican drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal).
The fact that Ferrell has surrounded himself with legit Mexican television and film stars, such as Armendariz and Rodriguez, only helps to solidify just how successful he is at pulling this film off even if that success will likely fly over the heads of most American moviegoers. If you watch closely, and read the subtitles if you don't speak Spanish, you'll also realize how incredibly serious parts of this film are whether it's blasting U.S. drug policy or simply creating some of the most memorable musical montages to come across the big screen in quite some time.
Seriously, this is some weird and awesome flick even amidst its flaws (most of which are clearly intentional). On a certain level, the tone that Ferrell nails in this film seems like the tone he was going for when he agreed to remake the Land of the Lost project that failed so miserably. While this film isn't quite a home run, it's a bold experiment in cinema and a surefire test of Ferrell's ability to open a film even if this is a film that's distributed by less than a major studio player, Pantelion films, and even if it is opening in only 600+ theaters on its opening weekend.
Still, wouldn't it just be incredible if Ferrell's Spanish language venture actually turned a profit?
It could happen.
It should happen.
The film isn't just a spoof, and it's not just targeting telenovelas. While the telenovela thread is undeniable and clearly the focus, Casa de mi Padre also pays a not quite loving homage to old school spaghetti westerns and late 70's action flicks that were equal parts laughably awkward action and cheesy scenarios. This isn't supposed to be a laugh a minute film (and it's not), but for those who "get it" it is laugh out loud funny at times.
Ferrell has proven time and again a willingness to be silly to the point of absurdity, and that willingness pays off hugely with Casa de mi Padre, a film that is at its best when it is being its most absurd. The film has absurdly poor production values, again it's quite intentional, and watching the characters come to life in the midst of it all is simply a joy to behold. There's not a weak performance among this ensemble cast, with Ferrell proving more than able to hold the film together despite an awareness that this could have easily been just a short film. Gael Garcia Bernal is a joy to behold (where has he been anyway?), while Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez are simply awesome.
As is true for even the best of Ferrell's comedies, not everything in this film works. That tends to happen when you go out on a limb and try things that almost nobody else would dare try. Fortunately, enough succeeds here that those who can appreciate the more experimental, absurd side of comedy are bound to enjoy this weekend's most unusual opening film.
Think about it. Who would have ever thought that the Duplass Brothers would be opening the "normal" comedy this weekend?
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic