At first glance, Casa de mi Padre looks to be a change in Will Ferrell’s increasingly redundant career. Movie after movie, he plays what is essentially the same character with the same mannerisms performing the same type of shtick. His range as an actor is brought into question time and again. Casa de mi Padre isn’t like his other films—it’s a spoof on those silly, overdramatized Spanish soap operas (for which he actually learned Spanish)—but his approach to acting has changed little. While a novel idea, simply speaking a foreign language doesn’t make a performance (or movie, for that matter). Will Ferrell yet again plays Will Ferrell in a moderately clever, but inconsistently funny comedy that doesn’t have the material to support its concept.
Armando (Will Ferrell) is a simple rancher in Mexico. Having been one his entire life, it’s the only thing he knows. Unfortunately, his family’s ranch is having financial problems and is in danger of being taken away. Soon, Armando’s wealthy brother, Raul (Diego Luna), shows up with his beautiful fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), claiming he can save the ranch. Their troubles seem to be over, but Armando soon finds out that Raul’s wealth is due to his mingling in the drug trade. This eventually leads him down a path he didn’t see for himself; he’s in a war with Mexico’s biggest drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).
In its desire to mimic old Spanish telenovelas, Casa de mi Padre is intentionally bad. The animals are unconvincing puppets, missing responsive dialogue is replaced by looped footage and the sets are poorly designed, no doubt so they will be noticed for their obvious artificiality. There are a number of obvious jump cuts too; a couple are so small it makes you wonder if they were indeed intentional or if they were simply oversights by the filmmakers (though it works either way, so it’s a moot point). These calculated inconsistencies are clever and funny, even if they sometimes do more closely resemble an old Grindhouse film than a Spanish soap opera, but it isn’t nearly enough.
A large part of the film’s humor is meant to derive from the fact that Ferrell, a pudgy, white American, is speaking Spanish and attempting to blend in with actors of actual Spanish ethnicities, but such a premise is not inherently funny. It’s admittedly amusing for a few minutes, sure, but it certainly doesn’t hold up for a full length feature. Furthermore, Ferrell speaks the language so fluently that one can’t wonder about the point of it all. Although it would have deviated from its already bare spoof of telenovelas, a form of broken Spanish would have been far more amusing and, at the very least, fit comfortably in with its intentionally bad approach. As is, however, anybody could have played his role and the effect would have been nearly identical.
Casa de mi Padre’s overacted narrative, complete with hilariously overemotional back stories, is indicative of its inspiration, but its one joke premise is stretched out for far too long. With production values that are meant to look like the actors are standing on a shoddy soundstage, this could have just as easily been filmed as a six minute short on Saturday Night Live. And therein lies its problem. It’s an interesting idea, but not interesting enough to be a movie. Ferrell aficionados may be interested in seeing him deviate from his normal type of role (even if only by a little bit), but there isn’t much else in this half-hearted send-up of Spanish soap operas to be worthy of your attention.
Casa de mi Padre receives 2/5