In Any Language, Will Ferrell's 'Casa De Mi Padre' Is One Note [SXSW 2012 Review]

We all have our favorite "so bad they're good" movies. They're films with poorly written scripts and terrible performances, but huge entertainment value due to, or in spite of, near-total incompetence. Casa de mi Padre, Will Ferrell's Spanish-language comedy, was conceived and executed to be one of those films. It's filled with totally self-aware mistakes in editing and production design. It has wooden performances and crappy dialogue. The idea was those gags, coupled with the fact that everyone is speaking Spanish, should be funny.

What Ferrell, director Matt Piedmont and writer Andrew Steele neglected to realize, though, is the reason "so bad they're good" films usually gain that moniker is that the filmmakers crafted every moment with the best intentions... they just failed miserably. The Casa de mi Padre team is making a bad movie on purpose so those "best intentions" aren't there. That, in turn, sucks the heart out of the film. As a result, it just lays on the screen lingering in mediocrity. And there are no "so mediocre they're good" movies.

Ferrell plays Armando, a simple minded rancher whose rich, smart brother Raul (Diego Luna) comes home one day with a brand new fiance named Sonia (ravishing newcomer Genesis Rodriguez). Raul is in town to overtake the local drug king, played with relish by Gael García Bernal. His actions force Armando and Sonia into each others arms and Armando to become a man.

With Casa de mi Padre, that story isn't really of much importance. The goal is to be a bad movie and, first and foremost, that's supposed to come from the fact that huge movie star Will Ferrell is speaking very poor Spanish. Initially Ferrell's work is amusing but after one scene, it's just accepted.

The rest of the film's comedy derives from specific aesthetic mistakes made by the director. Sight gags, for lack of a better term. Non-matched editing, super obvious and terrible sets, breaking the fourth wall; jokes upon jokes specifically focused on the filmmaking itself. Some of these are funny but, once you look past them, the actual script is mostly devoid of humor. All the comedy comes from the visuals and very little from the dialogue or the story. In fact, those are pretty straight forward. So when the continuity errors, bad puppets and 2nd camera assistant laughs run thin, there's nothing for the audience to grasp on to.

Luna and Bernal are pretty great in the film, though. They're obviously having a ton of fun hamming it up and it shows. Ferrell, on the other hand, is playing the straight man in a language he doesn't know and it results in an atypical, bland Ferrell performance. It's a bold choice but it just doesn't work.

As hard as it tries, Casa de mi Padre isn't really a bad movie. It's a risky movie that has some laughs but wears thin pretty quickly. Once you've bought into the gag, there's simply not much there. It's a swing and a miss for team Ferrell.

/Film rating: 5 out of 10