Having seen the new Spanish-language comedy Casa de mi Padre on Friday, I now know what I want for Christmas. I want a big white tiger that can talk and sit in trees and laugh, just like the big white cat that shows up and serves as spirit guide to Will Ferrell.
Seriously, let’s make it happen!
As for Case de mi Padre, the film is a deliberately absurd homage to both telenovelas and the B-movies of the 70s. Armando Alvarez (played by Will Ferrell) is a stupid but good-hearted Mexican rancher whose drug dealer brother (Diego Luna) is on the verge of marrying the niece (played by Genesis Rodriguez) of another drug dealer (Gael Garcia Bernal). Ferrell, of course, falls in love with Rodriguez and this leads to a deliriously over-the-top wedding party massacre and … well, listen the plot isn’t important. The plot makes no sense. It’s not supposed to make sense. It’s not only a Will Ferrell movie, it’s a Will Ferrell movie based on telenovelas. In short, the film is deliberately designed not to make any sense and, on that count, it succeeds admirably.
Despite a lot of funny moments and Ferrell’s admirable commitment to the film, Casa de mi Padre ultimately works better as a concept than an actual film. In the past, Ferrell’s comedies have worked because they’ve satirized pompous institutions and people who generally take themselves far too seriously, with the obvious example being Anchorman‘s cast of self-important television reporters. However, the majority of telenovelas are already essentially satiric in their intent. Casa de mi Padre finds itself in the odd position of satirizing satire and, as a result, it never feels as outrageous as an actual telenovela. The end result is hardly perfect but it’s silly enough to be consistently amusing.
Casa de mi Padre is a pretty uneven film that’s never as funny as you want it to be but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching it. Will Ferrell’s strength as both a comedic and a dramatic actor is his willingness to totally commit to his performance. No matter how ludicrous or silly things get, Ferrell gives 100% and that’s never been more obvious than in his performance here. Not only does he deliver all of his dialogue in Spanish (apparently he learned his lines phonetically) but he also totally throws himself into the melodrama of it all.
A similar commitment can be seen in just about every frame of the film. For me, the film’s best moments come from the small details that the filmmakers take the time to get right. It’s there in every scene from the film’s deliberately tacky sets to the way that the characters randomly break out into overdone laughter to the fact that every female character in the film down to even the maids who work for Ferrell’s father wander around showing off miles of cleavage. Perhaps my favorite scene in the film is when Ferrell and Rodriguez go for a horse ride and it’s obvious from the way the scene is framed that neither one of them is actually sitting on a horse. These are the type of details that will leave boring mainstream audiences scratching their heads but for those of us who speak B-movie, these are the details that make this film worth seeing.