Review of Casa de mi Padre

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This Spanish-language American comedy stars Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Génesis Rodríguez. The film, which has been described to be in the style of an "overly dramatic telenova" tells the story of Armando Alvarez, who must save his father's ranch from a powerful drug lord.
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Movie Review: "Casa de Mi Padre"
--Rating: R
Length: 84 minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2012
Directed by: Matt Piedmont
Genre: Comedy

"Casa de Mi Padre" is a comedic film that stars Will Ferrell. What makes this different from most of Ferrell's comedies is that the film is making fun of telenovelas while being completely in Spanish. Yes, there are subtitles, but the one-joke premise and sub-par production values makes it a joke that quickly runs out of steam. It has enough humor for a short film or a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, but it lacks the depth needed for a feature length film.

Like most telenovelas, "Casa de Mi Padre" is short on plot and heavy on melodrama. It follows Armando Alvarez (Ferrell), a simple farm hand who lives on his father's ranch. Ferrell plays Armando with wide-eyed wonder, making good use of the character's lack of life experience. Armando's brother, the successful Raul (Diego Luna) is an international businessman with a beautiful fiancée named Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). When Raul returns to his father's ranch, he promises to pay off the debts that are causing the family so much trouble. Meanwhile, Armando and Sonia meet and sparks instantly fly between them. Their initial glances are so passionate, they literally make the ground tremble, something that will inevitably cause problems with Raul. Of course, Raul's earnings are not necessarily legal, leading to a confrontation with the drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).

Credit has to be given to the filmmakers for even trying to make this film work. A Spanish melodrama starring Will Ferrell isn't exactly the kind of movie that will set the world on fire. While the idea of having a white actor in the lead role of a Spanish soap opera spoof could lend itself to a good time at the movies, there's something missing from "Casa de Mi Padre."

The main character Armando is the latest in a long line of Ferrell's dopey characters. Unfortunately, the movie rarely goes far enough with the character the way other Ferrell creations like Ron Burgundy in "Anchorman" or Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights" did. Credit should be given to Ferrell for his Spanish language skills and having the gall to go through with a movie that had very few box office prospects. While this all may be a good time for Ferrell and his friends, audiences will find very little to laugh at.

The movie is shot like an old Western B-movie, with cheesy backgrounds and sets that make it obvious the film is not on location. The acting is melodramatic, and the camera moves just as it would in a telenovela. Director Matt Piedmont, whose work with Ferrell goes back to "Saturday Night Live," tries hard to make everything work. But, there's just not enough here to warrant the film's length.

All of the actors have fun lampooning their own image. Besides Ferrell's Armando, Gael Garcia Bernal's role as Onza is fairly entertaining. He has a good time making fun of his motion picture persona from films like "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien." There are a couple of sight gags involving Bernal's character that are good for a chuckle, but very little of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Even a small part by Nick Offerman from "Parks and Recreation" offers very little in the way of humor.

This is the film's biggest flaw. It relies solely on the idea that the audience should laugh at the American actors performing in a Spanish melodrama. This is a great joke for a ten minute bit on a sketch comedy show, but for a movie, even one as short as this, it's almost too much. Ferrell gives it his all and there is an amount of respect to be had for how hard he tries to sell the character and the premise of the film. But, ultimately this is a mediocre Will Ferrell movie in subtitles, nothing more. If a film's best bit is the opening narration by Kris Kristofferson, who gives a slight nod to his song "Me and Bobby McGee" in his line reading, then the movie has problems.

"Casa de Mi Padre" could've been a funny 15-minute short or a small, recurring bit on "Saturday Night Live." Instead, it's an offbeat experiment made amongst friends that doesn't quite gel into a coherent movie. Will Ferrell fans may love it and followers of some of the real telenovelas may find it a hilarious spoof. But, for everyone else, this film may just be too much of an inside joke.