Had CASA DE MI PADRE embraced the idea of a Caucasian actor butchering and fumbling through the Spanish language while being surrounded by an all-Latino cast, it might have had something to pull humor from. However, without relying on such an obvious crutch, there’s not much else in Will Ferrell’s new “comedy” to really provide any genuine laughs.
CASA attempts to parody telenovelas and poorly made Spanish movies, but, when your presentation isn’t that much different from the originals, it’s becomes far less of a spoof and much more of a knock-off than anything else. There’s plenty of melodrama on display and definitely a visual style that emphatically states “low budget,” but it never goes above and beyond what we’ve seen from the source material being copied. Furthermore, there’s no tongue in the cheek of the film to indicate that there’s any joke to be in on. The performances are all very straight-laced and serious, so even the slightest hints at anything humorous fall flat, because they feel as if they have no place in a movie like this.
The story is as basic as they come, and is always played straight. Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, the dumber of two brothers, who’s lived his entire life working as a rancher for his father. When the family’s property comes upon some hard financial times, Armando doesn’t have the money or the intellect to come to the rescue. Enter his smarter and more handsome brother Raul (played by Diego Luna). He has the means to make the money problems go away, because he’s taken the easy way out and become a drug dealer. Unfortunately, he’s now encroaching on the territory of the mighty Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), drug dealer extraordinaire, and you know this can’t possibly end well, because when has there ever been enough room in the same town for two big-time drug dealers? That provides the opportunity for Armando to ride in and possibly be the hero for once, saving his family along with the woman he’s recently fallen in love with (Genesis Rodriguez).
However, the film gets bogged down in its own seriousness, dragging for long periods of time through the uninteresting and rather derivative plot. It probably would have helped to have some comedic elements to lighten the tone at times, but CASA DE MI PADRE never takes advantage of any moment to play for laughs. There are no jokes or punch lines to be had via dialogue, so where could the comedy in this comedy possibly lie?
CASA tries to do most of its damage through continuity errors and sight gags that point out just how cheap the whole concept looks. Is that a poorly costumed extra in the background posing as a waiter? Nope, it’s actually a mannequin. Did they really use a model complete with Matchbox cars as the exterior shot of a city street instead of actually using footage of a city street? You bet. Am I really seeing the entire crew reflected in that close-up of someone’s mirror sunglasses? That’s correct. There’s not nearly as much mileage to be had from the “mistakes” or the frugality as the film wishes. Director Matt Piedmont tries to squeeze just about all of the film’s amusement from those areas, but you can’t fill 84 minutes of a flick with just that. The same style of joke quickly becomes stale after a few minutes once they’ve already gone to the well for the third or fourth time. In the background or off in the corner of the screen is no place for the action to happen. It takes away from what is actually happening in the forefront with your eyes now occupied looking everywhere but where they’re supposed to, almost like “Where’s Waldo?” studying the frame to find some new “error” to catch, rendering you uninterested in the characters and their story.
Watching CASA DE MI PADRE isn’t fun at all. In fact, it can be quite the dull affair, as you wait for something to happen or anyone to do something comical. However, when I found myself most entertained by the film, it was several days later at home. I began recalling some of the more bizarre moments of the flick and couldn’t help laughing over some of its absurdity. There’s a white tiger that epitomizes how strange the movie gets, and remembering how ridiculous it was in the context of the film had me cracking up. It wasn’t that it took me several days to get it. There’s nothing to get about CASA DE MI PADRE. It simply took me some time – a few day’s worth – to find anything worthwhile about the film. It would have helped for that to have happened while I was watching the movie, but, to its detriment, that’s not how CASA DE MI PADRE plays. There’s no joy to be had from watching CASA DE MI PADRE in the moment, as it’s not very entertaining on the spot. However, if you have the patience to wait a few days to look back and chuckle over some of its more preposterous elements, then you might get your money’s worth… within a week. I prefer more instant gratification though from my comedy.
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