Monday, March 26, 2012

Casa de mi Padre

CASA DE MI PADRE (Matt Piedmont, 2012)

The sweet but stupid Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) is delighted when his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home to their father’s ranch in CASA DE MI PADRE, but their reunion may rip the Mexican family apart.  Although he wouldn’t dream of betraying his brother’s trust, Armando fights a strong attraction to Raul’s fiancée Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez).  Of greater concern is the revelation that Raul’s business success comes from dealing drugs.  Armando feels that Raul’s actions bring great shame on the family, not to mention that it makes them targets of rival dealer La Onza (Gael García Bernal).

CASA DE MI PADRE succeeds at mimicking the look and feel of inspirations as varied as Mexican melodramas, spaghetti westerns, and schlock cinema.  The painted backdrops, cheap sets, and overheated dialogue are parts of the joke and parts of the simple charm.  It’s a strange, ambitious film that feels as much like an affectionate experiment in Z-grade moviemaking as GRINDHOUSE even if the aim is to poke fun at the sources rather than venerate them.

Continuity errors, bad splices, mannequins utilized as extras, and an actor noticeably breathing while his character is supposed to be thought dead are employed for laughs, but these gags are inserted without scare quotes.  Cast and crew fully commit to being good at making a bad film.

For all of the rigorousness put into recreating lackluster movies of yesteryear, CASA DE MI PADRE often misses in one key area.  It isn’t funny for significant stretches. Director Matt Piedmont, screenwriter Andrew Steele, and the actors identify the unintentional hilarity when sincere efforts yield terrible results but aren’t able to add to it with consistently good jokes of their own.  After awhile CASA DE MI PADRE begins to play as a conceptual exercise rather than a legitimately funny movie in its own right.

As best as I can tell--which is to say, not very well--Ferrell performs respectably speaking Spanish for the whole film, and he’s to be commended for venturing into left field for CASA DE MI PADRE.  Many screen comedians who have reached his level of success tend to play it safe.  While CASA DE MI PADRE comes up short in the laughs department, it’s a suitably weird project that demonstrates Ferrell has retained his adventurousness.  Here’s hoping next time around the creative risks he takes are funnier.

Grade: C

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