AKA: House of my Father (2012) - Literal English Title
(Release Date: March 16, 2012)
(Premiere Date: March 13, 2012
[South by Southwest Film Festival])
Deadpan... can be seriously funny!
The joke here is so very metafictional that to some audiences this won't seem like a joke at all... but a truly bad movie. So deadpan is Ferrell that he occasionally comes off as an occasionally hammy serious dramatic actor, speaking in fluent Spanish. In this respect, watching Case De Mi Padre, I couldn't help but be reminded of similar English language films like Ed Wood, Grindhouse and Kill Bill.
When I worked at the theatre that showed Ed Wood in its first run, I remember people walking out and demanding their money back, declaring it to be the worst movie they'd ever seen! By the same respect, many people (and particularly some Will Ferrell fans) will probably say similar things about Casa De Mi Padre with its melodramatic delivery, over-the-top blood and violence, remarkably silly-cum-serious situations, incredibly obvious (and intentional) continuity errors, equally obviously fake sets (inter cut with on-location shots), loud-blasting Mexican trumpet score and even visible bad film splices, all used to great effect. Like Ed Wood and the latter-day send-ups like Planet Terror and Death Proof (as well as the "fake trailers" in their Grindhouse brethren), Casa De Mi Padre completely embraces all of these old techniques (usually born from low budgets) as if they were both something to laugh at and to treat like the choicest prime cuts of cinematic gold with which to make and sell this movie. And the absurdity and uniqueness of doing the whole thing in Spanish becomes equal parts the best example of the seriousness of the filmmakers' satire, part of the joke and one of the reasons this spoof/ tribute works as well as it does.
And in that respect the filmmakers are pretty damned successful in what they're trying to do here. Director Matt Piedmont (in his feature debut) and writer Andrew Steele (as well as Ferrell himself who produced along with long-time collaborator Adam McKay and nine additional credited producers) seem to know this older material well. They know what makes it tacky today and they know what wasn't bought into back when it was new! However, they also know why some of these moments were still convincing and make some of these films both fun-to-watch and easy to like today.
Ferrell brings us Armando Alvarez the not-too-bright son of a wealthy ranch owner Miguel Ernesto Alvarez (Pedro Armendßriz, Jr.). Miguel and Armando's fellow ranch hands Esteban (Efren Ramirez and Manuel (Adrian Martinez) tend to mock Armando for both his less-than-stellar intelligence and the fact that he's more interested in tending cattle than he is meeting and loving women!
And here I would have thought they would have teased him for being a tall Irish guy absurdly shoved into their family business. Go figure.
But when Armando's brother Raul (Diego Luna) arrives with his INCREDIBLY HOT new Fiancee Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) our intrepid (yet oft inept) main character is swept into a new world of intrigue, murder, romance, sex and a brutal drug war against a vile gangster called "The Onza" Gael Garcia Bernal).
Along the way we end up with both situations and one-liners that are treated so seriously they're not just deadpan, they seem almost to be taken completely seriously by the actors themselves. We also get blood splatters, ridiculous plot contrivances, a sex scene that consists almost entirely of ass-grabs (I now know WAY too much about Will Ferrell's behind) and a hilarious yet dead-on fantasy sequence straight out of the "classics" of the genre. Casa De Mi Padre works best when it balances the deadpan drama (that comes off so very funny) with the bizarre, farcical situations that keep this already surreal film decidedly in the absurd category!
Unfortunately at times even the joke itself wears just a little thin. Oh, the film never gets boring! Instead the more seriously this subject is taken the more the line truly is blurred between farce and actual silly drama. Further, the goofy moments never quite make up for the occasionally tiresome breaks from intelligence and solid storytelling.
To be sure, just about everything "wrong" with this picture is intelligently intentional. As defenders of this movie (and so very many others) will tell you, "It's supposed to be Bad!" Of course, this "Intentionally Bad" theory doesn't hold water in all situations. Sometimes Bad is Bad!
Luckily in this case, intentionally silly and intentionally satirical never delves into the realm of "bad" and just like the films Casa De Mi Padre both honors and spoofs, there is a lot to love in this film once you accept the gaping flaws. Naturally, cameo appearances by Molly Shannon and, no joke, Dan Haggerty definitely don't hurt either!
Any way you slice it, however, this film (intentionally ridiculous or not) does require the right frame-of-mind to enjoy. The entire film (with rare exceptions) is spoken in Spanish and it never does (nor tries to) break free from the genre it places itself so firmly within. This one isn't for the kiddies (even the Spanish-speaking kiddies) with its (brief) nudity and blood-splattering gunfights and it's not for those friends of yours who walk out of films they don't get saying "that was STUPID"! Casa De Mi Padre is not a stupid movie in any way but intentionally so. It's a farce... and an effective farce I might add, worth somewhere in the Ranchero of Three Stars out of Five. The absurdity of seeing big, Irish American Will Ferrell speaking fluent Spanish as the heir to a large Mexican farm never quite goes away. It's not for everybody, but it's definitely a laugh for those with the understanding and frame of mind.
So until every movie is excused by "it's SUPPOSED to be bad" and films like this who embrace their very absurdity start winning Oscars, thus making irony the norm and classicism ironically absurd, I'll see you in the next reel!
Just click this Link... and survive the Drug War!
reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
Who is solely responsible for the content of this site
And for the fact that he still thinks El Chupacabra can kick Bigfoot's Ass!
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