Casa de mi Padre
Directed by Matt Piedmont
Is it really possible to parody a genre already distinguished by its excessiveness? The Bond films so frequently go over the top, either with certain moments and characters (Max Zorin in View to a Kill) or for entire films (Moonraker), that things like Johnny English and Austin Powers seem redundant. Built on histrionic closeups and rib-jamming sight gags, these two spin-off franchises also suffer from being not very sustainably funny—like Casa de mi Padre, Will Ferrell and producer Adam McKay's big screen telenovela parody.
That's not to say that Casa doesn't have its moments, but somehow the amount of time I spent laughing totaled less than the time I spend laughing during a Funny or Die short. It's just not economical. Ferrell stars as the second-favorite son of a perpetually outraged Mexican rancher, whose brother (Diego Luna) brings home the drug war when he takes a hot bride and attempts to take over rival narco Onza's (Gael Garcia Bernal) territory. (There's also a negligible subplot involving scheming DEA agents, included for no other reason other than to put Nick Offerman, Parks and Rec's Ron Swanson, into a movie. His heavily accented Spanish is convincing enough to send you back to freshman year.) The perpetually smoking Luna and Garcia Bernal frequently transcend the limits of the roles they've been given, and it's a shame that their performances are limited to focus on Ferrell's now-standard swagger. Again, there's not much depth that could (or should) be brought to these one-dimensional characters, but there's a lot of mediocre filler here. The shot/reverse-shot drama has no punch; the bug-eyed gazes on real telenovelas are far superior and funnier even without subtitles.
So if it's not funny, is this gringo-written and directed take on Mexico offensive? There's singing, sexy maids, ostentatious crosses, Jarritos, and Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite—not progressive, but certainly not Lento Gonzalez. Like Napoleon Dynamite, Casa is anachronistic, at moments taking on aesthetic and technical elements of some late-70s/early-80s production despite being narratively grounded in the present day: all the animals are stuffed, the film breaks and warps at moments, Hot Wheels and poorly painted models are used for an exterior street shot. This is unfortunate, because even the most low-rent telenovelas now use bad CGI instead, and, speaking as someone who came of age along with this technology, poorly-rendered CGI is far funnier than any model. The end of Joe Black? All of Spawn? That form of self-important melodrama begs to be lampooned. Some pinche gueys purposely messing up continuity? That's for old men.
Opens March 16