Will Ferrell could read the report of a tragic motorway pile up involving a group of returning soldiers, a bus full of pregnant women and hundreds of loveable Bassett Hound puppies – whose cavalier attitude to crossing the road caused the accident in the first place – and make it funny. Somehow, some way, his delivery can eke laughs out of even the shoddiest scripts. Take Semi-Pro, Land Of The Lost, Blades Of Glory: all of these films would have been piss poor without Ferrell. When you give him a work of genius like Anchorman to play with, a comedy classic is born.
It was with trepidation therefore that I prepared to watch Casa De Mi Padre, a Spanish language movie with Ferrell in the lead role. My concern was that with the audience now having to revert to the subtitles to understand the dialogue, the immediacy of Ferrell’s delivery would be lost, and with it a great deal of the humour.
My other worry was that the main joke in Casa De Mi Padre was pretty well summed up in the trailer: policeman comes up to Will Ferrell and asks him if he speaks English, Will Ferrell replies in Spanish saying that no, he doesn’t, and we all laugh because we know that actually Will Ferrell speaks rather good English. If anything, it’s his first language.
Thankfully, Casa De Mi Padre knows its limitations, and decides to go down quite a different road to Ferrell’s previous work, the result being a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek and thoroughly entertaining hybrid of a Western and Mexican soap opera.
Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, a Mexican Ranchero whose first love is the land on which he works. Unfortunately for him, he is surrounded by people with a far less idyllic outlook: his returning brother Raul is trafficking drugs across the border to America, and in doing so has got himself in a whole mess of trouble with the biggest drug baron in town, a slithery, chain smoking rascal known only as La Onzo. Just to throw a spanner in the works, Raul has brought home his bride to be, Sonia, who may just be the woman Armando has been looking for his whole life.
Casa De Mi Padre is a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek and thoroughly entertaining hybrid of a Western and Mexican soap opera.
While the dialogue in the film elicits the occasional titter, it’s how Casa De Mi Padre plays around with its influences that make it so good. The film will shift tone in the blink of an eye, highlighting the ridiculously overblown mariachi soundtrack or a particularly dramatic entrance. Vast, expansive locations are juxtaposed with cheap, television studio sets, complete with classic three point lighting and painted backdrops. Continuity errors are all over the place, deliberately so, and the whole film gives the impression that the man in charge is a coked up lunatic who barely knows how to operate a camera, culminating in a hilarious scene in which the 2nd camera assistant apologises for an absent action sequence. The film also provides maybe the best movie sex scene since Team America, which is no mean feat.
Early reviews of the film have been mixed at best, and the only reason I can think of is that people were going in expecting to see a Spanish Anchorman. The best thing about Casa De Mi Padre is that it’s Will Ferrell genuinely trying to do something different, trying to shake off the classy suits and great hair of Ron Burgundy. Ok, there are elements you’ll recognise, hilarious put downs and moments of utter nonsense, but on the whole this is something of a change of pace, and not before time too.
Casa De Mi Padre, starring Will Ferrell, Genesis Rodriguez and Gael Garcia Bernal is out 8th June
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