“CASA DE MI PADRE” – 2.5 STARS

“Casa de Mi Padre” is yet another potentially funny but underachieving comedy starring Will Ferrell.  This bizarre low-budget Spanish language movie spoofs everything from spaghetti westerns to Mexican telenovelas and plays it all with a straight face. Now while I don’t know if there is a big audience for spoofs of Mexican soap opera westerns, it is quirky enough that, when combined with the puzzling adoration for Ferrell, it will attract some curious movie fans. As someone who’s not a big Ferrell guy, I went in with very tepid expectations but hope that I would be surprised. It certainly has its moments and certain gags work well, but in the end it felt like a haphazard Saturday Night Live skit stretched out to feature film length.

This may come as a surprise to you but in “Casa de Mi Padre”, Ferrell plays a simple-minded dolt.  His name is Armando Álvarez (which he reminds us of throughout the picture) and he has grown up working on his father’s struggling ranch. Soon his brother and favorite son of his father Raúl (Diego Luna) returns from making a name for himself in the business community. He’s accompanied by his beautiful fiancée Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) and their return marks what the family thinks will be the end of their financial woes. But it turns out that Raúl is actually a drug dealer who has pushed into the territory of a powerful drug lord known as Onza (García Bernal). As you can imagine, this throws the family in the middle of an all out drug war, something that is quite pleasing to a dirty DEA agent (Nick Offerman) watching from a distance.

Reading the synopsis of the story doesn’t make you automatically think comedy. And as I was writing the synopsis it was really hard relating it to the way this movie is presented. The telenovela style is almost immediately identified. The melodramatic and stilted dialogue along with the actor’s serious deliveries and exaggerated mannerisms give the movie a uniquely goofy tone. And regardless of how cleverly absurd the concept is, frankly I begin to grow tired of it at the halfway mark. I’m not completely discrediting it because there are some genuinely funny moments, but there aren’t enough funny lines and funny gags to keep the movie going. And then there’s the dialogue itself – sometimes funny, but most of the time consisting of dull, repetitive, and drawn out conversations that almost seem more like filler than substance. Then there are the injections of several wacky musical interludes intended to be outrageous but I could have done without them.

But the movie doesn’t just play around with Mexican soap operas. It also spoofs sloppy, cheap filmmaking and this was when the movie was at its funniest. There are several hysterical intentional “mistakes” scattered throughout the film such as a phone conversation where one party hangs up, we see the other party still talking in the next shot, then we see the first party talking on the phone as if they had never put the receiver down. Then you have a man clearly shot one time then we see him stagger around with two profound bullet wounds in his chest. There are little “goofs” like these hidden all through the movie and I laughed each time I found one. Then there was the glaring, deliberately cheap production design. Several scenes feature obvious mannequin body doubles. Then there are the poorly painted backgrounds, horrible tiger puppets, and a couple of clearly fake horseback riding sequences. There’s even a bigger intentional hiccup midway through the film but I’ll leave it to be discovered. These were hilarious moments that had me laughing whenever they popped up.

The movie also has its share of Tarantino-styled violence. There are numerous slow-motion action takes and bloody gun battles. You can also see the movie takes from spaghetti westerns through a couple of showdowns as well as some of the conversations between Armando and his compadres. But everything is done within the context of comedy. It’s just not done well enough to make “Casa de Mi Padre” anything more than a mediocre diversion. While it is a bit tamer that most of Ferrell’s other films, it still has enough of him and his humor to partially satisfy his fans. But even though it has a good concept and it does do some things really well, there’s just wasn’t enough material here to keep me interested.

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