In Home Viewings: "Casa de mi Padre"

The son of a wealthy Mexican landowner, Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) is a simple man who is only entrusted with small tasks around the ranch. When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with a plan to bring in more money, Armando is initially excited about the proposition despite his jealousy over Raul’s new fiancé, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Soon, however, it becomes apparent that Raul’s plan involves the drug trade, drawing unwanted interest from both the local cartel leader Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) and a corrupt DEA agent (Nick Offerman). With the family’s legacy in danger and his own life on the land, Armando must become the man neither he nor his father thought he could ever be.

Told entirely in Spanish, Casa de mi Padre plays out exactly the way it is intended, as a mix of Spanish telenovela melodrama and Will Ferrell’s manchild foolishness. There are few surprises here and at times this film becomes tiresome but then again, there’s something to be said for committing to a bit and sticking with it religiously, and in this way Casa is a success. I half expected Casa to turn into a Scary Movie-like parody but instead Ferrell and the rest take great pains to approach the subject matter with a seriousness that it really doesn’t deserve. In doing so, Ferrell sells the movie enough to make one buy in, at least enough to stay relatively interested in a low budget, low expectation movie. If Casa were a car and Ferrell the dealer, you wouldn’t buy it as a brand new, turbo charged Mustang but you could grab onto it as a used Camry with reasonable mileage. And really, that’s all one should expect from a $6 million indie film built around the idea of Will Ferrell speaking Spanish, no?

The actors surrounding Ferrell are adequate in their roles, though none are asked to do much of anything. Rodriguez fits the bill as the beautiful but troubled love interest and she, better than anyone else in the cast, seems to roll with Ferrell’s antics. A scene in which Armando and Sonia become, shall we say, romantically entwined, the lead-up to and execution of which is so absurd as to bring about laughter even though I should know better. Here Rodriguez is an excellent muse for Ferrell. At the end of the day, though, Casa is virtually a one man show, a platform for Ferrell to do something different while still staying in a comfortable place. In comparison to his other films (of which I am a great and lifelong fan), Casa is fairly weak but if nothing else Ferrell should get credit for thinking outside the box and doing something a bit risky. There’s more to like here than I anticipated, included the blatantly fake backdrops and at least one scene that is ripped from the pages of a Monty Python sketch, making Casa a modest success in my book.