As charming as Will Farrell is, he really can’t carry a movie unless the script is amazing. For every Anchorman and Talladega Nights, there’s a Land of the Lost and a Semi-Pro. Casa de mi Padre fits somewhere in that nebulous region in-between the crap and the fantastic, but it’s leaning more toward crap. Yeah. Unfortunately, it’s leaning a lot more toward crap.
You have to give Will Ferrell credit. He’s willing to take risks. Not content with just doing comedies where he plays man-boys (Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, etc.), Will Farrell signed on for dramadies like Stranger Than Fiction and Everything Must Go to prove just what kind of actor he is. It shows a lot of range for an SNL alum who once wrote a skit about Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” needing “more cowbell.” And Casa de mi Padre might be his riskiest venture yet, as it’s an action/comedy in the vein of a telenovela that’s done entirely in Spanish. I mean, seriously, who does that? Unfortunately, the film doesn’t push its gimmick far enough and its laughs are few and far between, and the movie is often boring, fake mountain lion and all.
The story features Will Farrell, who surprisingly does a great job with his Spanish, as a rancher who becomes embroiled in a drug war on his father’s ranch. What follows is a lot of gunfire, a lot of slim-cigarette smoking, and a lot of intentionally cheap-looking shots of vistas that are obviously just painted backgrounds. This film definitely embraces the cheapie approach to filmmaking. But then again, it doesn’t, which is sort of the problem. The best parts in this movie are the actual parodies of telenovelas themselves, such as a scene where the camera pans in on a character’s sunglasses, and you can actually see the crew in his lens’ reflection, just standing around. It’s the kind of movie where you fully expect to see more than one boom mic appearance, but don’t. It goes for it at times, but not enough. The rest of the movie feels like they were trying to tell a real story, and that’s where Casa de mi Padre falters. Either go all out with the gags, or don’t. But don’t attempt both. It only confuses things.
That’s the biggest problem with this movie. It feels confused. Will Ferrell at one point plays the straight man, and the next, he can’t even roll a cigarette properly and lets it hang in his mouth while tobacco spills out of it. At times, I actually do wish the movie went with the straight-faced approach and wasn’t meant to be a joke at all. It would have been this surreal movie where Will Ferrell is seriously committing to something so outside his range that it would be amazing. Then again, I also wish this movie went balls-to-the-wall crazy, sort of like Anchorman, and was so wild that it’s a riot all the way through. Either one of those would have been fine. But combined, it just doesn’t work.
Overall, Casa de mi Padre is an interesting Hollywood experiment, and I’m happy they made it since it’s so different from the norm. But I just wish they committed themselves to a very specific course. As it stands, it’s a movie that feels caught up it in its own ambition. Watch it if you’re curious, but don’t expect to be marveled or dazzled. Well, except by Will Ferrell’s Spanish, of course. That is pretty impressive.
Even if you don’t like the movie all that much, you still have to appreciate all the special features on this disc. The audio commentary with Will Ferrell, director Matt Piedmont, and writer/producer Andrew Steele, while not very informative, is enjoyable. You get the sense that they had a good time making the movie as they’re constantly laughing and putting each other down. They really sell it. There’s a “Making of” featurette that involves the mostly Spanish cast praising the director for being able to direct a Spanish movie, even though he himself couldn’t speak Spanish, which is actually pretty damn impressive.
There are also deleted scenes that advance the story, even if they aren’t all that funny. If this movie had taken the serious approach, I think they would have been important to the actual movie. It makes me lament for the film that this could have been. A “Fight for Love” music video, based on one of the songs in the end credits, is silly, silly stuff, and would have fit in perfectly if this was a straight comedy. There are also fake commercials advertising made-up cigarettes and beer. It’s actually pretty hilarious. Finally, there’s an interview with Pedro Armendariz Jr., who died last year and this was his final film. It would be a better feature if there were subtitles all the way through, as it’s sometimes hard to understand what he’s saying, even though he’s speaking English.
As a whole, the special features for Casa de mi Padre are impressive. If you really dig the movie, then you’ll love these special features, and even if you don't like the movie, you may still appreciate them. I only wish there was a way you could separate the comedy or add more in to get the film just the way you like it. That would have been pretty awesome.