Casa De Mi Padre
A hell of a departure for Will Ferrell, the offbeat comedy is great fun, if a little one-note.
Will Ferrell’s latest release, Casa di mi Padre (House of my Father), is a welcome return to comedy after last year’s foray into serious drama with Everything Must Go. Taking an almost Grindhouse approach, the film is an homage/ send up of the Telenovela, obscure Mexican television plays.
Ferrell is Armando Alvarez, the underachieving son of a wealthy rancher, who has been a constant source of frustration to his family, especially since brother Raul (Diego Luna) has gone on to lead a successful life in the big city. When Raul returns, the family find themselves in conflict with sinister drug lord, The Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), while Armando finds romance with his brothers fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez).
Taking on such little-known source material is a bold move for Ferrell and company, and the fact that this film is entirely in Spanish further underlines just what a ballsy move this is. Ferrell did not speak a word of Spanish prior to this film, and his sometimes phonetic line readings are the source of much of the films early humour. It is this sort of creakiness which gives Casa a lot of its charm, although entirely manufactured, there is something endearing about the shoddy sets, the melodramatic performances and loose direction on show here.
Sadly, what is Casa’s biggest strength may also be its undoing. The joke here is essentially that we are watching an amateurish production, and although this may run the risk of wearing thin over the running time (an entirely subjective point – though it certainly didn’t for me), the main problem is whether this is enough for Ferrell fans. Anchorman 2 this certainly is not, and with many of the gags taking an ironic look at the process of filmmaking itself, many viewers will be left disappointed by a lack of the lead’s usual frantic manchild stylings. Comedy is perhaps the most subjective genre of all, and whilst I can happily say that Casa frequently had me in stitches, this is a very different kind of humour than we are used to from the Ferrell/McKay stable, and may not appeal across the board.
Ferrell’s lead performance is great fun, with his awkward Spanish and gurning melodrama fitting the tone perfectly. The supporting cast also deserve great credit, and amongst the large ensemble it is Luna, Bernal and Rodriguez who stand out (in the biggest three roles aside from Ferrell). Luna and Bernal show off their usual chemistry in some very funny scenes, obviously relishing their sleazy characters, and having fun with some joyously silly exchanges. Rodriguez carries on from being one of the high points of Man on a Ledge by totally getting into the swing of things. With a sultry charisma and knack for getting just the right balance of melodrama out of scenes, Rodriguez looks like a real prospect.
Casa di mi Padre, then, is a hell of a departure for Ferrell, but a ballsy move which pays off with some real laugh-out-loud moments. The ironic humour won’t appeal to all though, and there remains a feeling that the film may be slightly overlong, as the joke does begin to run out of steam towards the end.