Judge Clark Douglas' attempt to write this review in Spanish didn't go over too well with his editor.
The funniest movie you'll ever read.
"I hope nothing bad happens on the way home."
Facts of the Case
Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) is a simple Mexican rancher who loves his land and his cattle more than anything else in the world. His father Miguel (Pedro Armendariz, Jr., Once Upon a Time in Mexico) regards him as a foolish simpleton, while simultaneously demonstrating great affection for Armando's brother Raul (Diego Luna, Milk). The already-tense relationship between Armando and Raul reaches a boiling point when Armando falls in love with Raul's new girlfriend Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez, Man on a Ledge). Alas, the family drama is interrupted by drama of a considerably nastier sort: a local drug kingpin named Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal, The Science of Sleep) has threatened to destroy the entire Alvarez family. Will Armando have the courage to confront Onza when the time comes?
I have to say, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Casa de mi Padre, as almost every review I had read referred to the film as a Saturday Night Live sketch that had been unsuccessfully stretched out to feature length. I'd contest that not only are those statements untrue, but they also shortchange the fact that it's an exceptionally unique comic experiment. Granted, the premise is a little thin and there are scenes in which the laughs come a little too infrequently. However, the pleasures the film offers more than outweigh the weaknesses.
Will Ferrell fans should be forewarned that Casa de mi Padre offers a considerable change-of-pace from the actor's previous work. We're not dealing with the childish macho bluster of typical Ferrell comedies (a tone that can be immensely funny in the right hands but which can grow tedious in the wrong ones), but rather a gentler, sweeter, more absurdist brand of humor. The tone is actually closer to some of Steve Martin's earlier, sillier movies like The Man with Two Brains and Three Amigos! than it is to typical Ferrell flicks (or most modern comedies, for that matter). The film is a parody of the telenovela format, but it recognizes that the format is already so over-the-top that it doesn't need to nudge things much further to be funny. Rather than further amplifying the melodrama of the story, the film largely concerns itself with goofy riffs on the low-budget nature of such productions.
In one sequence, Armando and and Sonia are riding horses as they engage in deep conversation. It's immediately obvious that the horses they're riding are fake, and that the equally fake background scenery behind them is gliding by at a much faster rate than they're riding. Later, Armando sings a song consisting entirely of the words "la la la," but the movie helpfully provides subtitles regardless. In another scene, Armando leans down to pick up a large brown real-life calf, but in the next shot he is holding a small black stuffed one. If gags like these tickle your fancy, you're likely to have a good time with Casa de mi Padre, which begins as a cheerful variation on Grindhouse but can't resist indulging in almost every goofy possibility that presents itself (such as a sequence in which Armando and his comrades cheerfully smash their glass beer bottles on the ground—and then keep smashing them and smashing them, somehow pulling a never-ending supply of empty beer bottles out of thin air).
Of course, the initial joke is the concept of the film itself, which intentionally miscasts Ferrell as a Mexican rancher and requires him to speak Spanish for the film's duration. A lesser movie might have mistakenly found this notion funny enough to carry the whole thing, but once the novelty wears off (very quickly, to be honest) you realize that Ferrell's delivering a real performance. His Armando is a fine comic creation; an honest and good-hearted fool who slowly but surely stumbles into heroism. He's backed by a game supporting cast, with Gael Garcia Bernal having a great time as the film's central villain and the lovely Genesis Rodriguez proving game for any excessively silly thing the film throws at her (including a hysterical, squirm-inducing love scene that is almost entirely comprised of shots of Ferrell's hairy rear end).
Casa de mi Padre (Blu-ray) arrives sporting a decent 1080p/2.35:1 transfer that does a good job of remaining true to the original intentions of the filmmakers. The movie has an intentionally soft, lo-fi look that prevents eye-popping detail, but the lush, golden-hued cinematography looks awfully attractive nonetheless. Most of the "flaws" present in the image are there intentionally, and a handful of scenes that don't rely on these effects demonstrate just how terrific the transfer would be if the film were supposed to look that way. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is superb, with the infectious soundtrack (including a fun 007-style title tune performed by Christina Aguilera) coming through with strength and the actions scenes featuring a great deal of immersive kick. It's a strong track all over, though once again there are a handful of moments that are supposed to sound a bit muffled (such as the amusing commercial that plays after the end credits conclude). Supplements include a commentary with Ferrell, director Matt Piedmont and writer Andrew Steele, a making-of featurette (15 minutes), some deleted scenes, faux commercials, and the brief final interview of actor Pedro Armendariz, Jr. (who passed away before the film was released).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are scenes in which the movie disappointingly focuses more on its insubstantial plot than on humor, but the only aspect of the movie I really had a problem with was the subplot involving an American DEA official played by the great Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation). The fleeting subplot is dull, uglier in tone than the rest of the movie and a waste of Offerman's talent. It clashes with the generally amiable vibe of the flick in a way that simply doesn't work. Still, at least this strand of the movie does manage to deliver one exceptionally entertaining gag towards the end of the film.
Casa de mi Padre will undoubtedly prove mystifying for many viewers, but those who can get with its playful, understated sense of humor will have a blast. It's an unexpected delight that is well worth checking out.
No es culpable!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2012 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.