Will Ferrell as Armando
Diego Luna as Raul
Pedro Armendáriz Jr. as Miguel Ernesto
Genesis Rodriguez as Sonia
Efren Ramirez as Esteban
Adrian Martinez as Manuel
Gael García Bernal as Onza
Manuel Urrego as Officer Blancardo
Nick Offerman as DEA Agent Parker
Jerry Collins as DEA Agent #2
Directed by Chris Matt Piedmont
Amusingly bad production values, funny songs, and a good comedic performance by Will Ferrell make "Casa de mi Padre" worth checking out, but it does at times feel like a shorter parody video stretched out to feature length.
Armando Alvarez is a simple rancher in Mexico. He loves his cattle, he loves his land, and he loves his country. His father thinks he's an idiot and he shows favoritism for his brother, Raul, but Armando has resigned himself to that.
One day Raul returns home with a new fiancée, Sonia. She's beautiful and friendly, but Armando immediately dislikes her because he believes she's only interested in the family's wealth. And when he discovers that Raul has become a drug lord, things take an even worse turn for the family. Raul is in the middle of a turf war with the local drug lord, Onza. So when the drug wars come to the doorstep of the Alvarez ranch, there's only one man who can stop it and restore the family's honor - Armando!
"Casa de mi Padre" is rated R for bloody violence, language, some sexual content and drug use.
You know how "Grindhouse" was a tribute to grindhouse movies? And "Jackie Brown" was a tribute to blaxploitation movies? Well I guess you can call "Casa de mi Padre" mexploitation. It's basically a parody of the super cheesy, low budget Mexican dramas of the '70s and '80s. It features many of the crazy elements of both grindhouse and blaxploitation films. You have cheesy opening titles, entire reels inexplicably missing from the film, dust on the picture, dated music, etc. There's even an entire action sequence deleted from the film and replaced with an apology note from the 2nd Unit Director. While I can't say I ever watched an old Mexican drama, it's quite clear what they were going for in "Casa de mi Padre." And even without being familiar with the material they're parodying, I did find it funny.
"Casa de mi Padre" generates laughs in several different ways. The first is its extremely low production value. Characters stand on sets in front of 2D paintings and we're expected to believe they're sweeping outdoor vistas. There are obviously fake horses and calves that the actors treat as real. Jim Henson's creature shop even provides a hilariously fake 'white cat' that generates lots of laughs as it serves as Armando's 'spirit guide.' Later, there's a hilarious scene where Armando and Sonia are supposed to be riding horses, but you can tell they're standing still and some poor crew member is running in the background with a tree. Then there are shots where the camera crew and a guy eating a sandwich are clearly visible in reflections on the set. All of this combines to make some fun laughs.
"Casa de mi Padre" also creates laughs with its original songs. The main number entitled "Casa de mi Padre" (believe it or not!) is sung by Christina Aguilera along with the colorful opening credits. Later there's a campfire song entitled "Yo No Se" which is especially fun. And Armando and Sonia sing a song that's only lyric is "La." Overall it's a great collection of original and funny songs. That's missing from a lot of movies today as they instead opt to cover existing songs.
Then, of course, "Casa de mi Padre" gets its biggest laughs from the antics of Will Ferrell. People either love his style of humor or hate it. I'm a fan. Ferrell plays the buffoon exceptionally well and this movie plays up that fact. Armando repeatedly tries to roll a cigarette and smoke it in scene after scene, but he fails every single time. And it's a simple little gag that's going off on the side as other things unfold in the scene. Then there's Armando getting on and off of horses and helping Sofia at the same time. You can imagine the comedy potential there. In short, Ferrell delivers exactly what you'd expect in a Will Ferrell movie.
Ferrell is supported by a fun cast. Genesis Rodriguez holds her own with him as Sonia. I had never heard of her before, but she was pretty funny here as she played everything completely straight no matter how absurd a scene was. Efren Ramirez from "Napoleon Dynamite" is here as the ranch hand Esteban. Gael García Bernal from "The Motorcycle Diaries" shows his comedy chops as Onza. Diego Luna from "Y Tu Mama Tambien" also plays up his ridiculous drug lord character as Raul. And "Parks and Recreation" fans will also be happy to see Nick Offerman and his moustache as DEA Agent Parker.
I saw this movie with a Hispanic audience in Houston and they absolutely loved it. It's pretty bold to make a comedy entirely in Spanish, but I think it works. Hearing Ferrell dramatically speak his lines in Spanish does add some laughs and they do have fun with the subtitles at times.
What Didn't Work:
As fun as the movie is, it does feel like a good 10 or 15 minute Funny or Die video stretched out to 80 minutes. And while there are a couple of big laughs along the way, most of it generates a chuckle. They make a point to say that this is "from the gringos who brought you Anchorman," so people are inevitably going to make comparisons. I'd say "Anchorman" is significantly funnier.
I also imagine that "Casa de mi Padre" is going to get a better reception in Southern and Western Spanish speaking states than up North. They'll appreciate the parody of Mexican film more.
The Bottom Line:
If you're a Will Ferrell fan or a fan of Funny or Die, then I think you'll find this movie worth checking out in theaters. If not, I'd say this movie would be a fun one to rent. It is worth a few good laughs.