To Say Will Ferrell is an incredibly polarizing figure in comedy is to just point out something all our mothers already knew. Is he a comedy genius, or a man-sized enfant terrible? Is he one step ahead of us, or are we justified shaking our heads at his absurdity? This is the constant tango most movie-goers partake in when setting foot into one of his new films, never knowing for sure if Ferrell is going to leave us sated or enraged.
While we all have our favorite (or not so favorite) Ferrell offerings, his newest film Casa De Mi Padre is so full of heart and balls that it is almost impossible to not see it taking a cult favorite status amongst film lovers. Set on a Mexican ranch with a nearly entire Spanish speaking cast, the film explores the tumultuous relationship between brothers Armando (Ferrell) and Raul Alvarez (Diego Luna) as they try to protect their family’s land from the looming threat of drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). Raul is the prodigal son whose return brings joy to his father Miguel Ernesto (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) with the news of a wedding to his new fiancé Sonia (Mexican pop sensation Genesis Rodriguez) but also a sense of change for Armando, who is less than trusting of his brother’s new riches (spoiler alert, he dabbles in the illegal). Unlike the typical idiot savants Ferrell normally plays, Armando reveals himself to be quite intelligent and forward thinking. His love of his family and homeland endear him to the audience, even when he’s trying to move in on his brother’s lady.
Although the story pulls from telenovellas, low-budget spaghetti westerns, and American indie films, the actual finished product is remarkably groundbreaking. Director Matt Piedmont creates an intricate, self-sustaining world for the clever and hilarious characters written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele, while also presenting nuanced self-reflexive moments film lovers will foam at the mouth over. From the camera crew reflecting off Armando’s glasses to the obviously neglected costume continuity, each Easter egg thrown in is meant to incite both laughs and winks from the audiences. Piedmont is fully aware of what he’s doing, and he expects those watching to be in on the joke. It may look poorly constructed, but that’s part of the fun of this high-concept film.
Casa De Mi Padre is a hodgepodge of genre and ideas, and it far exceeds its goal of both entertaining and challenging its audience. It is not usual Ferrell fair, but the love and attention to detail he put into the film shows from the opening credits. Everyone on screen looks like they are having the greatest time in the world, and they want to extend an open invitation to their party. Why not put on your fanciest vaqueros and come along on Ferrell’s surreal adventure?
The Upside: A hilarious film once you realize it’s a complete farce. This shouldn’t take longer than the Mexicoscope title credits to figure out.
The Downside: Your mom will hate it, but that’s not a surprise.
On the Side: The animitronic white tiger leading Armando on his enlightenment through the desert was loaned to the crew by the Jim Henson Workshop. It’s the best looking terribly animated puppet you will see this week.