- Last Updated: 11:31 AM, March 16, 2012
- Posted: 10:20 PM, March 15, 2012
CASA DE MI PADRE
El Ferrell. Running time: 84 minutes. Rated R (nudity, language, violence, drug use). At the Union Square, the Empire, others.
Good news for Spanish-speaking Will Ferrell fans who grew up watching telenovelas: “Casa de Mi Padre” is the movie you’ve been waiting for. For anyone else . . . not so much, unless I’m mistaken about the minimal overlap between Ferrell’s English-speaking audience and people who go to movies with subtitles.
You have to give credit to this comedy A-lister for choosing to make such a weird, low-budget parody. And once it gets diced up into five-minute YouTube clips, it’s going to be hilarious.
As a full-length feature, “Casa” is simply a funny concept that starts to go stale around the 10-minute mark. Modeled on the popular, florid Spanish-language telenovelas — soap operas, sort of — and on old spaghetti Westerns, it stars Ferrell as a dim-bulb but good-hearted Mexican rancher (a bigoted cop — Nick Offerman — asks if he speaks “American,” and no, he does not). His name is Armando Alvarez, as he will remind you many times during the 84-minute running time.
It’s hard to know how to react to Ferrell’s Spanish. It sounds passable, but his dialogue’s often deliberately rudimentary. (“We are close brothers!” “I will beat you with these hands!”) Director Matt Piedmont wants to have it both ways: It’s obviously funny to hear (er, read) those lines, but we’re not supposed to be laughing at the idea of Ferrell speaking Spanish, exactly.
The film does look authentically inauthentic (stuffed animals stand in for real ones; horseback riders are clearly rolling along on wheels), and convincingly retro with its sepia tint. Also authentic is the rest of the cast, Spanish speakers all, headed by Mexican stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, who play a pair of rival drug dealers with a great deal of relish and many, many cigarettes.
Luna, as Armando’s slick brother Raul, returns to the family compound with his hot girlfriend, Sonia (Telemundo star Genesis Rodriguez), in tow. Unfortunately, she has ties to local kingpin La Onza (Bernal), and he wants her back. Meanwhile, it’s clear Armando is falling for Sonia himself (their love scene may set a record for gratuitous stand-in butt shots).
It’s all heading just where you think it’s heading, if you think it will involve a musical number and a gunfight and people falling to the ground in slow motion with blood squibs exploding out of their chests.
Luna and Bernal, always fun together, sure do ham it up. Bernal slinks around in dangerously pointy cowboy boots, and Luna gets a great rant about Americans — “s - - t-eating crazy monster babies” — and their warped perception of Mexicans.
But anyone who doesn’t speak the language will miss stuff. For example, onza means snow leopard — as in, that’s why Bernal wears all white, and also why an animatronic snow leopard keeps appearing to dispense mystical advice. I had no idea until I looked it up.
Piedmont and producer Adam McKay have a long history with Ferrell on “SNL” and funnyordie.com. It stands to reason they’d attempt to stretch a sketch-length concept into a feature, and it’s kind of cool they did it in Spanish. Kudos for the effort, even if no la amé.