'Casa de Mi Padre': Ay Dios Mio!
Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
"Hyman Roth always makes money for his partners." You might remember that line from "The Godfather: Part II," which I think we can all agree was, at the very least, a pretty good movie. I bring this up in part because I'd rather be thinking about at least a pretty good movie right now rather than the one I have to write about. (And yes, I know, "Godfather: Part II" is more than just a pretty good movie, but bear with me.) And I bring it up in part because "Casa de Mi Padre" made me think the only reason it got made is that, up until now, comic actor Will Ferrell has always made money for his partners. The only question is, was "Casa de Mi Padre" made with the expectation that it could, despite being so almost unwatchably awful, make more money for Will Ferrell's partners, or was it made to indulge Will Ferrell on account of his past et cetera, et cetera?
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"Casa" is essentially a one-joke movie, and the joke is that it's entirely in Spanish, a language which non-Hispanic performer Ferrell speaks with the proficiency of a reasonably linguistically adroit contemporary high school student. The movie ostensibly parodies ... well, I'm not quite sure what it parodies, actually. I'm not hugely conversant with contemporary commercial Mexican cinema, and I have a grasp of certain conventions of no-budget Mexican cinema of the late '40s and early '50s from certain pictures directed by Buñuel and other, and the Mexican telenovelas I've seen (not too many) are way more technically proficient than what this seems to be parodying. Whatever is being parodied is being lampooned in part on the grounds of being completely technically inept (a really lame animatronic white lion is one of the film's running, um, gags), so ... yeah, I really don't know.
I do know that the plot has Ferrell as the dumbass (of course) scion of a wealthy rancher (played by the now-deceased Pedro Armendáriz Jr., whose career could have done with a better penultimate bow) whose life is turned upside down when his more successful brother (Diego Luna) comes home from a business trip with a gorgeous fiancée in tow ... and a new business venture, perhaps involving "las drogas," to boot. Gael Garcia Bernal, looking rather like Jean-Paul Belmondo, turns up as a rival drug kingpin. (Neither he nor Luna look to be enjoying what must have amounted to a paid vacation nearly as much as one might have expected.)
Sigh. I feel like an idiot just beginning to describe the story line. This is one of those pictures, alas, that is critic-proof merely by dint of the fact that applying any amount of thought to it, superficial, or serious, or what have you, is an entirely humiliating, self-abnegating experience. Conceived and executed by a couple of Ferrell's former "Saturday Night Live" cronies, "Casa" is arguably an exercise in you-either-get-it-or-you-don't humor, and, by the way, being high on weed (or something) is likely really gonna enhance the chances of your "getting it." (The movie ends with a post-credits dope joke featuring Dan Haggerty. Yeah, the "Grizzly Adams" guy.)
Thing is, I wasn't high on weed, but I still think I "got" it, only I didn't laugh. OK, maybe once, at the beginning. Not a whole lot after that, though, and I found the experience of sitting through the relatively scant 80-plus minutes of the movie to be thoroughly tedious. Humor being a subjective matter, of course, your experience may be different. But, to paraphrase a former editor of mine, if it is, maybe we shouldn't have lunch anytime soon.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.