Director: Matt Piedmont
Some of Will Ferrell’s best work has been in films that tread the line between comedy and drama (Melinda and Melinda, Stranger Than Fiction). With that in mind, it should be no surprise that his sincere and upright turn in Casa De Mi Padre is admirable, as is his command of Spanish. It’s a pity, then, that Casa De Mi Padreis being marketed as a comedy because, despite some laughs, the whole thing seems surprisingly po-faced.
Anyone who’s ever seen a Mexican telenova will know that they’re phenomenon ripe for parody, with melodrama oozing out of every orifice and the only visible restraints being on the budget. In a telenova-style plotFerrell plays Armando Alvarez, a (very) simple ranchero who works his father’s farm whilst his favoured brother Raul (Diego Luna) rakes in cash with his business. Family’s an old theme in the telenovas, but the interactions between Armando and his family do highlight the main shortcoming in Casa De Mi Padre. Armando can converse with his father (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) or Raul for minutes without so much as a hint of comedy. As time passes, it feels like writer Andrew Steele wrote a straight melodrama, realized he forgot the jokes, and randomly inserted the odd silly line or scene to cover himself.
The crux of the plot is Raul’s dangerous rivalry with fellow drug baron La Onza, who’s played by Gael Garcia Bernal. Both Bernal and Luna are up for some stupid gags at their expense, and they get some laughs between them. However, on the whole Casa De Mi Padre is lacking in the laughter department. Ferrell and his fellow Saturday Night Live alumni Steele and director Matt Piedmont (making his feature debut) have about enough material for one of their Funny Or Die sketches, and then it peters out. Their basic schtick seems to revolve around the fact that having Ferrell speak a different language is funny. It’s not, and actually makes Ferrell look like a decent dramatic lead. It’s a most unusual backfire, but Ferrell is clearly a man with talent, however unexpected.
Despite the scarcity of laughs, when they do come along, they hit the target (An encounter with a white panther is a ridiculous highlight). The ending is a bullet-strewn blowout, and Ferrell has a certain chemistry with his leading lady, the game and stunningly beautiful Genesis Rodriguez (as Raul’s wife Sonia). However, Casa De Mi Padre’s satire is a little too on-the-nose, lapsing into the melodrama it mocks when straight laughs dry up. Es extraño y loco, pero no es muy bueno.