Fans of Will Farrell know that his style of comedy can usually be looked at as an acquired taste. They don’t follow the run-of-the-mill genre formula, and are usually filled with jokes that are completely nonsensical; but this is also why they’re often so hilarious.
Casa de mi Padre is likely Farrell’s biggest gamble to date, as it is his usual style of comedy done completely in Spanish. That’s right, the entire film is subtitled and spoken in a foreign tongue, and yet, it ends up being one of his funniest, most original movies to date.
If you’ve ever seen a telenovela and don’t speak a foreign language, then odds are you weren’t watching it for the story. That said, you likely picked up on how melodramatic things could get just by listening to the acting taking place – unless you watched it on mute, in which case I’ll lump you in with those who haven’t seen a telenovela and explain what it is in the first place. A telenovela is basically a soap opera that is popular in Latin America, and as most know from North American soap operas, they can get quite outrageous and ridiculous with their storytelling.
Casa de mi Padre is basically an extended telenovela, with a hilarious story that gets more and more ludicrous as time goes on – but in a good way. To keep things fresh, Farrell, writer Andrew Steele and director Matt Piedmont also throw in plenty of violent shootouts, forbidden romance, and one of the most beautifully shot love making scenes since Team America: World Police. In short, the movie is basically the love child of a Mexican western and a telenovela on melodramatic steroids.
The story is quite simple if you peel away all the layers that eventually cover it in hilarity. Farrell stars as Armondo Alvarez, a quiet rancher who has stayed and worked on his father’s land since he was young. It isn’t until his brother Raul (Diego Luna) shows up back home with his new fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez) that Armondo begins to notice how empty his life truly is. However, when it is discovered that Raul is mixed up in the drug trade and a rival cartel wants to destroy the Alvarez family, along with their ranch, Armondo must find it within himself to defend his family’s honour before all is lost.
Believe it or not, that’s the simple explanation, and it branches off in many different directions from there. The genius of the film is just how aware of itself it is, constantly breaking the fourth wall, while throwing in major continuity errors (in set design and clothing, not plot) from time to time just for the hell of it. There are also times when the cast will just break out into song, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them found their way into the Best Original Song category at the Oscars next year (mainly the Bond-esque opening theme “Casa de mi Padre” sung by Christina Aguilera, or the hilarious “Yo No Se” sung by Will Farrell, Efren Ramirez and Adrien Martinez.)
While I want to get into the acting, I think I’ll touch on the production side of things first. This film looks absolutely brilliant from start to finish. There are numerous jokes involving the set design, and how cheap some of them look compared to others where plenty of money was spent. Piedmont has a wonderful eye for visuals that he used while directing, with most of the camera shots fitting perfectly with the style the film is going for, adding hilarious emotional elements to scenes aiming to be serious – at least in the eyes of the characters. Steele, a former writer for Saturday Night Live, should also be commended for his hysterical screenplay that does its best not to let the viewer catch their breath. There are so many jokes either being said or happening in the background, that repeat viewings are a requirement in order to take it all in.
Now, on to the actors, who impresses in even the smallest roles. First off, Farrell gives one of his best comedic performances to date, and this isn’t only due to the fact that he speaks seemingly flawless Spanish throughout the entire film, though that is infinitely impressive. What really elevates Farrell’s role is how serious he takes the film, with his delivery of lines not only coming across fluent and smooth, but also with meaning and emotion.
While the story makes fun of itself constantly, the characters within it act as though they aren’t aware of this fact, and treat these serious turns of events happening in front of them as one would in reality. This goes for everyone involved, as their superb acting abilities help make a movie that constantly looks to pull the audience out of the story with laughter completely engrossing at the same time.
The supporting cast is just as brilliant as Farrell, and I’ll start by praising Rodriguez, who has a background in the Latin soap operas. This, of course, gives her an advantage over some other members of the cast, as she knows how to play the melodramatic card, and how to play it well. Even with that experience, however, it’s clear that she’s got a lot of talent, which she’s just beginning to try and prove north of the border (some may recognize her from Man on a Ledge or Entourage.)
Luna is perfect as Armando’s polar opposite, and has a wonderful chemistry alongside Farrell, and great comedic timing. That’s true for most of the cast, however, as they all just click so well. Gael Garcia Bernal is fantastic as cartel boss Onza, and while some may not recognize the name, they may recognize the face, as he’s the one who does the Gillete “Masters of Style” shaving commercials alongside Adrien Brody and Andre 3000. The late Pedro Armendariz Jr. is also fantastic as Armando’s father in what turned out to be his last role. There are many more worth mentioning, such as Ramirez and Martinez who play Armando’s friends, but the line must be drawn somewhere, and just know that everyone was terrific.
Casa de mi Padre is the funniest movie I’ve seen this year, with exceptional performances by all involved, and a flawless execution of the style of film it was going for. That said, it’s definitely not going to be for everybody, but you should at least give it a chance before deciding which side of the border you land on.
The visuals for the film are fantastic, with a wonderful transfer that really captures the visual style the movie was going for. The warm tones and golden colour palette really add to the overall vibe as well. The audio quality is also fantastic, with beautifully rendered sound effects and a musical score that really captures the different moods of the film. With the film being in Spanish, many would believe that the dialogue quality doesn’t matter as long as the subtitles are legible, and that’s true to a degree; however, the language is beautiful, and it comes through smoothly with no distortion, which only adds to the quality of the picture.
Audio Commentary by Director Matt Piedmont, Writer/Producer Andrew Steele & Will Farrell – This is a nice commentary for those who enjoy the film and want to get a bit of an inside look as to how certain things were done, or why. Having all these major players come back for the commentary is a treat, so it shouldn’t be missed if possible.
The Making of Casa de mi Padre – This feature comes in at just under 16 minutes in length, and we hear from the cast and crew who talk about the film and their different experiences working on it. There’s also a lot of jokes being thrown around by all, which makes this an entertaining feature to watch, though some may not like how it takes time away from learning how and why things were done. But that’s what the commentary is for in this case!
Deleted Scenes – There are 10 deleted scenes that add up to just less than 20 minutes in total. While I went through a few of them, it’s quickly obvious why they didn’t make the final cut of the film. For some, the film may already be a bit awkwardly paced, and these scenes would have done nothing but slowed it to a crawl at certain times.
“Fight for Love” Music Video – this is a music video starring Will Farrell and Genesis Rodrigeuz, and it almost feels like a deleted scene from the movie. If it was, that’s unfortunate as the musical numbers really added to the film. If it was just made as an extra, well it’s a great song, with a funny video and it’s definitely worth watching.
Commercials – There are four different faux commercials found here that all play off the satirical universe created in the film. They’re quick and harmless with some being funnier than others (like the cigarette brand with the slogan “They’re the cigarettiest!”)
Pedro Armendariz Jr. Interview – There’s also an interview with Armendariz Jr., who as mentioned above, died in December 2011. With this being his last role, it was a nice gesture to put this interview in this package for fans of his and the movie.
Casa de mi Padre is the funniest film I’ve seen this year, and Farrell shows up at the top of his game. Wonderful performances by everyone involved help elevate this to another level entirely, while the filmmakers captured exactly what they were going for and delivered it perfectly. Highly recommended.
Lionsgate presents Casa de mi Padre. Directed by: Matt Piedmont. Written by: Andrew Steele. Starring: Will Farrell, Diego Luna, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Efren Ramirez, Adrian Martinez, Gael Garcia Bernal. Running time: 84 minutes. Rating: R. Released: July 17, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Casa de mi padre, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Genesis Rodriguez, western