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SXSW Review: Casa de mi Padre

Will Ferrell in a shootout with Mexican drug lords…? The joke is so obvious it’s not even funny.

 

On paper Casa de mi Padre should be everything I love. A crazy high concept premise, spoofing multiple genres, breaking the fourth wall. I love all that, but Casa de mi Padre just didn’t work for me. It seemed like an inside joke between Will Ferrell and Adam McKay that I wasn’t a part of.

Basically it’s Will Ferrell speaking Spanish. It really is an all Spanish language film with English subtitles. Ferrell plays Armando, an incompetent goofball rancher. When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns to the ranch with his lady Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), jealousies and drama emerge. Then Sonia gets kidnapped by the local drug lord Oriza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Armando has to spring into action.

Obviously the plot is part telenovela and part cliché western. They’ve got the formula right and they play it ridiculously. Who wouldn’t want to see Will Ferrell in a shootout with Mexican drug lords? It just seems the joke is so obvious it’s not funny.

Immediately the film makes it clear that they are not playing it straight. There are absurd moments like a gang of ranchers laughing far too long, a la Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil laugh. You can see the crew blatantly reflected in glass. There are old school projected driving shots, overtly fake elements intercut as if they’re seamless, and obviously fake horseback riding because they’re way too smooth. So yeah, this is worse than any shoddy Mexican production, but it’s also not inspired.

It goes even further to calling out film mistakes and lost footage a la Grindhouse. They have a funny way of addressing the audience but it never felt perceptive. It felt more like jokes from other movies copied without understanding why it’s funny to point out film clichés and mistakes.

The spoof of telenovelas and westerns could be funnier. They’ve got the rich brother, the hot wife, the drug violence, the standoffs, the zoom lenses (although not in a gunfight like Leone would do.)

Maybe reading the subtitles just makes the humor too dry. Something just wasn’t clicking, so it could have been the language barrier. No matter how much they enunciate en Español I was stuck reading it.

There are some great Ferrell bits in here like his cigarette rolling or helping Rodriguez onto a horse wrong. Ferrell’s deadpan face in a gunfight is funny and I should really love all the weirdness, but no.

If this makes more money than Shoot ‘Em Up I’ll be really sad. That was a movie that totally got the action gunplay genre and delivered it to the ridiculous extreme. No one got it so it failed. Casa de mi Padre doesn’t quite get it, but Will Ferrell can open a movie so it’s got a fighting chance.