Thursday, March 15, 2012

Will Ferrell, the Spanish-language edition

If you know nothing about Mexican cinema, you might be fooled by Casa de me Padre into thinking that films produced in Mexico are poorly made, overly melodramatic, embarrassingly cheap and inadvertently silly. Those who know Mexican film understand that nothing could be further from the truth. Mexican cinema, though often neglected in the U.S., has had many periods of high achievement. What Will Ferrell & company have done in Casa de me Padre is to make a parodic version of the kind of movie they believe characterized Mexican cinema in the 1970s. Some critics have suggested that this subtitled movie, in which Ferrell and all the other actors speak Spanish, is more indicative of the work found in popular Spanish-language telenovelas. If you can get past all that, you may find some chuckles in what amounts to a courageous gamble for Ferrell, starring in a Spanish-language movie that may not appeal to his generally avid fan base. Ferrell plays Armando, the nerdy son of a rancher (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) Armendariz's Miguel Ernesto regards Armando as a lovable dolt, favoring his more wayward son Raul (Diego Luna).* When Raul arrives home with a beautiful woman (Genesis Rodriguez), papa is overjoyed. The smart son has returned. But all is not well. An illicit and often-brutal drug trade (led by a gangster known as La Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) flourishes on the ranch. The movie plays a bit like an extended sketch, but Ferrell and his spirited comic cohorts plunge happily into material that draws much of its humor from the self-consciously shoddy way in which the film has been made. At one point, Ferrell and Rodriguez ride fake horses, a phony looking white cat adds mystical flourish, and no attempt is made to paper over holes in the movie's low-rent artifice. It's quite possible that Casa de me Padre -- a hit-and-miss affair that includes some amusing moments -- will become a footnote in Ferrell's career. Despite occasional burst of violence, the movie plays like a good-natured spoof that pokes fun at the kind of movies that, though presented with great seriousness, can't help but be perceived as preposterous.

*For those who like to keep track of passing time, it has been 11 years since Bernal and Luna appeared in the popular comedy, Y Tu Mamá También.

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