(This is our second review of the film… Rob Beames wrote our first review HERE)
I cannot imagine that there is much of a demand for satires of melodramatic Spanish telenovelas, but director Matt Piedmont, in his debut, has gone ahead and made one anyway. Despite roping funnyman Will Ferrell in for some shenanigans and boasting the backing of Ferrell’s frequent collaborator Adam McKay as producer, Casa de mi Padre is a disappointing, lazy failure of both humour and ambition.
Ferrell plays Armando Álvarez, a noble man whose father’s ranch is facing financial ruin. Just then, Armando’s brother Raúl (Diego Luna) arrives on the scene with his fiancée, Sonia (Génesis Rodríguez), and promises to settle their monetary woes. However, once it is revealed that Raúl is in fact deep in shady drug deals and has caught the ire of fearsome baron Onza (Gael García Bernal), the brothers will have to put aside their differences to defend their father’s legacy.
If nothing else, Piedmont’s film is a brave gamble, given the mainstream English-speaking audience’s resistance to subtitles of any kind. Respectably, its Spanish-language delivery is something the marketing did not shy away from, and the opening dialogue, declaring “It sounds Spanish man. That’s what it is, a Spanish movie”, gives viewers a warning from the outset, as well as ample time to get a refund.
Unfortunately, Casa de mi Padre is little more than a one-note joke centered around Will Ferrell saying outrageous things in a foreign language. It is the lightly amusing trailer distended well beyond its reasonable elasticity, to 84 long, excruciating minutes. Resembling so many of the misguided Saturday Night Live films, there’s the distinct feeling it would have functioned more tolerably as a 10-minute Funny or Die sketch.
While it is fascinating that the film was even made at all, and as an extremely niche subject starring one of the world’s most famous comic actors, it is oddly admirable in its audacity, it just doesn’t really work. It goes through the motions but simply lacks comic verve, while the sending-up of Spanish stereotypes grows wearisome after just a few scenes.
One of the few positives is the alluring presence of Génesis Rodríguez, first introduced to most audiences as Jamie Bell’s buxom girlfriend in Man on a Ledge. Amid all the men-children littering the screen, she is a sensible voice – the only female one, no less – and given both her stunning looks and spunky demeanour, is exceptionally well-cast. Bernal and Luna also bring a little class to proceedings, but there’s the overpowering feeling that they should be above this sort of material by now. Maybe that feeling might have been different if the film were actually funny.
The only remotely workable touchstone here is how it surrenders the absurdity of the source material – albeit something that most native English speakers, and Will Ferrell fans, will never have seen – but it simply is not done in a very imaginative or clever way at all. A few intentional Grindhouse-inspired technical goofs raise some laughs, as does a fourth-wall breaking note of apology from the director, but these moments are few and far between. The epic finale – a shootout at Onza’s mansion – meanwhile misses the point completely, because while it is gory and technically sound, it is also positively humourless. Regurgitating something ridiculous is not sufficient to create humour – it needs to be injected with something subversive, too.
Ultimately, Casa de mi Padre feels like a carousel of stereotypes elicited with next to no sense of humour, such that even at 84 minutes, it is a slog to get through. Like a supermarket enchilada, it initially seems appealing but you quickly realise it lacks flavour.
Casa de mi Padre is in UK cinemas tomorrow.