Wednesday, March 14, 2012

REVIEW - Will Ferrell can speak Spanish in Casa de Mi Padre!

"Purposefully poor production values are seen throughout most of the movie and, coupled with Armando’s (Ferrel) idiotic naivety, keep things almost consistently funny. Though, as with all comedies, big laughs are what you’re there for and with this movie, ultimately, I felt it was lacking."


First off, here's to my first review of a movie before its wide release! This movie hits theaters nationwide this Friday and my viewing was yesterday. So here's to that, and hopefully many more advanced screenings to come! *tequila shot*

Ok, so here's the deal with Casa de Mi Padre:
- the title means “House of my father,”
- the movie is a spoof on Spanish telenovelas (think American soap operas, with the poor acting and production values, but the series coming to an end after a run of about 6 month on average)
- no matter how many times you say “casa de mi padre” out loud to someone, without adding some Spanish bravado while saying it, it's awkward…
- and the entire movie is in Spanish with subtitles.

Yup, with the exception of a small amount of people speaking English (or, as it's known to the DEA agent in the movie, "American") in a few short scenes, you get an entire movie of Will Ferrell speaking fluent Spanish. That fact combined with one of Will Ferrell's most well known, hilarious, and often quoted lines from the oh-so-quotable Anchorman, "...I don't speak Spanish," made this a must see movie for me. The question now becomes: is the movie worth seeing? Well, amigo, keep your pantalones on and I'll tell ya!

Mr. Ferrell is a polarizing figure. People tend to either love him or hate him. Funny enough, I've been on both sides of the fence.  He essentially played the same character in Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Blades of Glory. An overconfident famous jackass who's really just a jackass and has no right to have so much...well...confidence and fame.  Also, many of Will’s public appearances and stints in between all that had him often donning the same persona. Enough of the jokes fell flat, it came off as trying too hard to be funny, it got old and after a certain point I was over it. That is until I came to the realization that he pretty much plays that type of character better than anyone else out there. Will Ferrell owns it and at his best he’s friggen hilarious. So I’ve ended up getting in on the joke of his fake overly egotistical persona and, in doing so, gained an appreciation for it. 

Many others simply can’t stand that shtick in general, so they tend to stay on the “hate him” side of the fence because he uses it so often. However, there are those rare occasions where Will Ferrell deviates from this character and gives a performance that the general audience can enjoy (examples being Elf and Stranger Than Fiction, which is a vastly underappreciated movie).  In Casa de Mi Padre, Will Ferrell does deviate from his usual arrogant idiot routine and instead gives us the naïve idiot with a heart of gold: Armando Alvarez. Though, in general, there’s still a lot of the goofy tried and true Will Ferrell humor throughout the movie. So if you weren’t a fan before, this probably won’t do anything to change your mind.

The story for this movie is simple: Armando lives with his father on their large ranch, tending to things around the place when his brother Raul (Diego Luna) comes back home for a visit with his fiancé Sonia (played by Genesis Rodriguez). The ranch is in a financial predicament and Raul turns out to be in the business of selling drugs, gets into some trouble with the local drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and turmoil ensues. It’s ultimately up to Armando to save his father’s ranch and protect his family. Sounds serious, but it’s not take serious at all, which makes for some hilarity in and of itself.

One positive of this comedy, in comparison to Will Ferrell’s other works, is it never went too over the top. A lot of his movies, and just comedies in general, can have those scenes that just go too far with the immaturity, awkward sexual scenes, and/or gross out humor and it just take you completely out of the movie for a moment. And, at their worse, scenes like that can completely ruin an otherwise enjoyable movie.  Casa de Mi Padre never goes there and, actually, if it wasn’t for the funny-but-violent gun fights and some salty language in a few scenes, I could see this movie being rated PG-13. No gratuitous nudity or anything…Although there is a particular scene which reminded me of the fact that watching Will Ferrell make out with an extremely beautiful woman completely destroys any potential pleasure one could derive from said scene...though it does lead into a hilarious love making scene.

There are some good laughs that come purely from Will Ferrell's delivery and pronunciation of Spanish, but the majority of the laughs in Casa de Mi Padre come from the purposeful poor production values. This is one of those movies you can watch multiple times and find something new to laugh about each time.  There’s poor scene transitions/editing, over dramatic camera angles, horrible looking animatronic animals, obviously fake backdrops, people wearing different clothes in the same scene after the camera moves from one person to another and then back, etc. These touches are seen throughout most of the movie and, coupled with Armando’s naivety, keep things almost consistently funny.  Though, as with all comedies, the “funny” is what you’re there for and with this movie, ultimately, I felt it was lacking.

Going into a comedy, you are always waiting for those moments that will make you laugh till you think might crap yourself or pass out from a lack of oxygen. Unfortunately, this one just never seems to hit any major peaks in that department.  There was never a moment of uncontrollable laughter for me. It was more just consistently chuckle to good-laugh worthy. It actually started off pretty strong, but by the half to last 3rd of the movie you can start to see a bit of a pattern and it starts to fumble a bit.

The film is spoofing a genre and, in doing so, you could tell the director felt the obligation to hit all stereotypical aspects of the genre, and he does so to an almost parallel degree at times. There are scenes that spend so much time on capturing the over-dramatics of telenovela that they became long, drawn out, and just not that funny…much like similar sequences in telenovela, I’m sure. Had these scenes been peppered with more of the poor production values and continuity errors, it would have made the movie all the more enjoyable.

One of the positives of the film also happens to be a negative: it never goes over the top. Some over-the-top can be a great thing in comedy. It can take the jokes to another level of hilarity. But it just never really happened in this one, so it felt lacking in that regard.

Overall, I’d say if you are a diehard Ferrell fan you’ll get your money's worth from seeing this in theaters. For the average comedy fan, a rent is well worth it. For everyone else, you probably won’t want to go out of your way.

Score: 6.5/10

On a side note, taking a glance at for comedies coming out this weekend, it’s looking like 21 Jump Street might be the one to beat, surprisingly. Very strong reviews so far.

Also, If you are looking for a great comedy that does the poor-production satire job better than Casa de Mi Padre, I’d highly recommend Black Dynamite.

Update: Due to the large amount of hits my site is receiving from people wondering if Will Ferrell actually speaks Spanish, despite what the title of my review might lead you to believe, apparently he's nowhere near fluent.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with this, including the black dynamite comment.