Bottom Line: Casa de mi Padre es interesante.
Directed by: Matt Piedmont
Armando Alvarez: Will Ferrell
Also Starring: Diego Luna, Genesis Rodriguez, Louis Carazo, Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
Will Ferrell is the 21st century’s grossly under-appreciated answer to Leslie Nielsen. Although far from intelligent, his sophomoric humor has the power to provoke an uproar of laughter, almost as if he were a genius. This quality in Ferrell’s signature comedy leads for pretty much an oeuvre of guilty pleasures, with dumb yet outrageously fun comedies tumbling in one after another. One of Ferrell’s latest is Casa de mi Padre. It’s also by far his most underrated escapade yet. Of course it’s dumb, and I’ve found that’s what most critics are complaining about. This isn’t school, though, nor is it a spelling bee or a quiz show. So if it’s dumb and funny, why does the low IQ level matter to begin with? The film just hasn’t earned enough appreciation for its ability to entertain consistently, and succeed tremendously at humor.
I’ve always firmly believed that if a comedy is great, the leads deserve the applause for expounding upon a great screenplay; if it’s horrible, it’s the screenwriter’s own fault for writing something he or she sorely mistook for humor. Casa de mi Padre was written by Andrew Steele, a writer for Saturday Night Live for nearly thirteen years. Despite the great results, I’d imagine being equally bored and nonplussed if I were to read it on paper. That’s not completely a bad thing, though. The script was written as satire, at the expensive of telenovelas. These are Latin America’s episodic TV romances that are trashy enough to make an American soap opera seem sophisticated, well-acted, and unpredictable. Written out, it’d be hard to tell what exactly the objective is, but the telenovela taken to laughable guilt with director Matt Piedmont’s exaggerated touches. Is this really his first time directing a feature-length film?
What’s so great about Casa de mi Padre is even if you haven’t watched a telenovela, it’s extremely enjoyable. This is Ferrell at some of his absolute finest. The comic travels through nearly an hour and a half speaking entirely in Spanish. Moreover, he nails his attempt at a Mexican accent, making it seem easy. His character, into whom he’s always dissolved, is wild and absurd–possessing an odd infatuation with caballo racing, never knowing where or when to stop asking preguntas, inept at planning, etc. Either this loud, animal-like, non sequitur-heavy character was written for him, or he was improvising for over half the film.
The premise is as old as anything. Just as Blazing Saddles was at the same time a western and a spoof of westerns, Casa de mi Padre plays out as a telenovela while also farcically capsizing the genre. Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) has lived his entire life without much respect from his father. He was given his grandfather’s gun before the age of ten, and accidentally ended up killing his mother in an attempt to kill two men surrounding her. From then on, he is known in his father’s mind as the dumb one of the Alvarez family; his brother Raul (Diego Luna), however, is the one “with brains.” Our story sets up when Raul is planning his wedding to a beautiful woman named Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Everyone in the Alvarez family loves her, especially Armando, her soon-to-be brother-in-law. He wants to break his brother apart from her before they wed, for the selfish purpose of marrying Sonia himself. However, his mouth works faster than his mind, and he makes a few mistakes, such as questioning her love for his brother. Confused? Let’s just say chaos begins to tear the family apart, eventually pitting them against one of Mexico’s most feared drug lords. ¿Porqué? Yo…no…se.