Casa de mi Padre (2012)
Directed by Matt Piedmont
When I bought “Casa de mi Padre” barely used on Blu-ray at a flea market for $2, I had no intention of enjoying it. I bought it simply because it was so cheap. I was mucho wrong about not enjoying it. I hate being wrong, but I was. I guarantee I’ll lose about half of the people reading this right now simply because they can’t possibly imagine any comedic potential for a Spanish-language dramedy starring Will Ferrell. I didn’t either. Then I watched it.
“Casa de mi Padre” begins like a Mexican twist on the tale of the prodigal son. When suave Raul (Diego Luna) returns to the humble ranch of his padre (Pedro Armendariz Jr.), he’s met with open arms. That is, until his envious brother Armando (Will Ferrell) sees the beautiful fiancé (Genesis Rodriguez) he brought home with him. Then, when Armando discovers that his ranch is being overrun by drug cartels, he and his friends take action. But secrets of Raul and his fiancé lead Armando to question whose side they’re really on. Could Raul really be tight with a bad crowd? Will their father begin to see the truth? With whom will Raul side? This is one Mexican stand-off you don’t want to miss.
Doesn’t sound that bad, right? It’s part murder-mystery, part drama de familia, part shoot-em-up gangster flick. Unfortunately, they had to taint it with a failed attempt at comedy. But humor only veils the exciting story that lies behind it. And, actually, the story is pretty good. By the end, I hardly realized that I was reading subtitles because I was so enthralled with what was going to happen next. The parallels with “Django Unchained,” actually, are pretty interesting. Both movies end in pretty impressive gunfights for the protagonist’s love interest, both have catchy original songs (that actually sound pretty similar, too)…in fact, in the special features, Ferrell actually said that he intended “Casa de mi Padre” to feel like a blend of telenovela mockery and Tarantino action. It works. The acting is overdramatic, the scene transitions are purposely terrible, the two musical numbers are kind of uncomfortable, and the set design is intentionally God-awful. It’s trying to make fun of a rich history of Mexican film and soap operas, but it really only makes fun of itself. Still, if you can look past the gimmicks (which I could after the first 15 minutes or so), it’s not bad. Ferrell, for having only high school and college-level Spanish experience, fools everyone into thinking he’s totally fluent. Anyone who has seen “Stranger than Fiction” or “Everything Must Go” knows that Ferrell can handle more serious roles. He nails this one.
It was a flawed idea that, I’ll admit, would have worked much better had it been in English, ditched the crappy production value, and starred more seasoned dramatic actors than Will Ferrell and Pedro from “Napoleon Dynamite.” But even as it is, “Casa de mi Padre” is enough to get you hooked pretty early on. I resisted it as long as I could, but pretty soon its drama and mystery was too much to fight. I wanted to know what would happen next. Eventually, even the subtle comedy started to work. It’s the little things Ferrell does that remind you why he’s such a comedic stud. He’s at the top of his game…only, now he speaks Spanish.
I had every intention to trash this movie and slap it with a low rating. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite all its crappy gimmicks, “Casa de mi Padre” presents a pretty universal story that’s just too sensational to resist. It’s billed as “The funniest movie you’ll ever read.” It’s silly, but it might just be right. Sorry, haters.