Will Ferrell speaks Spanish. Are you laughing yet?
With his father’s ranch in trouble, a war with a drug lord looming and a lady to woo, Armando Alvarez sets out to get his father’s Casa in order.Casa de mi Padre, Will Ferrell plays a Spanish dude.
Did you laugh yet? If so, you’re going to have a fantastic time with the film. If not, this really isn’t for you.
Your enjoyment of Casa will be directly proportional to how hilarious you find the aforementioned linguistic gymnastics of leading man Ferrell who, by all accounts, does an excellent job in the character of Armando. Some may be surprised to find that the film itself is fully committed to its identity as a Spanish action comedy – rather than being the set up for an elaborate joke.
The conceit is played more or less straight and is accompanied by a heightened style inspired by Spanish language soap operas. The performances are melodramatic and the production values purposefully poor, with painted backgrounds clearly in evidence and some terrible prop work.
The homage to the telenovela makes a certain amount of sense but the level of farce the film takes things too soon becomes unbearable. Director Matt Piedmont (who has previously worked on Funny or Die Presents) seems to believe that merely presenting an extended spoof is enough to mine laughs from the audience. It isn't. Without decent comedy set pieces or much in the way of worthwhile jokes, we’re mostly left with a film that just feels incompetently produced.
The appeal of Ferrell is become more and more elusive with time. It’s certainly interesting to see a major Hollywood star performing in a different language but the characterisation is lazy, relying on the same techniques he’s been boring English language audiences with for years. That means lots of shouting, flamboyant gestures and an encounter with a large, prosthetic animal.
The supporting cast is infuriatingly well-appointed, including indie beloveds Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. Man on a Ledge’sGenesis Rodriguez also pops up as an effective love interest and all try their best to get on board with the ridiculousness, with varying (meagre) degrees of success.
But perhaps Casa isn’t really supposed to play well here. Made for a mere $6 million, the project was instigated and co-financed by NALA (North American Latin American) Films, who were intent on bringing Ferrell into the Spanish language fold. And while the over the top style may seem incongruous, or annoying, to international audiences, it’s likely to play a lot better in countries where it more closely resembles local TV programming, coupled with the presence of a real star like Ferrell.
For everyone else, Casa de mi Padre is a one joke film, stretched to laborious length with ineffective farce and a self aware tone that elicits few laughs. Then there’s Ferrell, being Spanish. Oh the hilarity.