Casa de Mi Padre

Rogue comic Will Ferrell recently turned up on an Old Milwaukee commercial exclusively for the Davenport, Iowa, local market; the obvious next career move, then, is Casa de Mi Padre, a modern-day tortilla western/telenovela spoof entirely in Spanish. Squinting into the middle distance with "the eyes of a small chicken" and expressively mangling hand-rolled cigarettes, Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, dull-witted son of a widowed rancher (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) whose preferred heir, Armando's brother Raul (Diego Luna), has turned to drug trafficking, sparking a violent turf war with rival dealer Onza (Gael García Bernal). There has always been a flamboyant, sartorial element to Ferrell's comedy, and it's clear that he and director Matt Piedmont, a former SNL writer, love the melodrama they're parodying: the protracted death scenes and abrupt musical numbers, the streaming golden light, Catholic-Mayan iconography, and blood-splattered white roses. Casa de Mi Padre riffs freely on impoverished production values—phony painted backdrops and the reflection of the camera crew in a DEA agent's sunglasses—but the humor doesn't only target south of the border. Like any good genre product, Casa also smuggles in rude social criticism, as when Armando memorably describes drug-addicted Americans as "shit-eating crazy monster babies."

 
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Juan Sanchez
Juan Sanchez

Casa de mi Padre makes no bones about that fact that it is not for everybody. The telenovela spoof with unapologetically cheap production values revels in the retro and weird, proudly humming along to its daffy spaghetti western tune as if every wild moment is entirely plausible. Casa stars Will Ferrell as Armando Alvarez, a dimwitted Mexican ranchero that “loves the land more than he loves the woman.” Armando is catapulted into a love triangle and drug-war when his morally corrupt brother Raul (Diego Luna) and Raul’s fiancé Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) return home to marry and take over the territory of the reigning crime lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).

In a scene preceding the bloody climax, Armando, shot and left for dead, is rescued from a man-eating coyote by a talking animatronic wildcat that serves as motivator, shaman and, presumably, medical doctor. Oh my! The charm of Casa is in how it approaches its melodramatic story and outrageous characters with equal parts goof and earnest, keeping all over-the-top comedic outbursts grounded in the world it has created.

With few laugh out loud moments, the film is best appreciated for its free-spirited confidence and gleefully offbeat dialogue. The decision to interrupt an imminent battle between the anamatronic wildcat and man-eating coyote over the lifeless body of Armando Alvarez represents a missed opportunity. Note to director Matt Piedmont, we want to see a wildcat fight a coyote over Will Ferrell while he plays dead. Make it a miniature puppet battle over a mannequin if you need to, just as long as we get to see it. Actually, that would be awesome!

 

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