Susan Granger’s review of “Casa de mi Padre” (Nala and Pantelion Films)
As an ultimate vanity project, Will Ferrell has taken a “Saturday Night Live” skit and fleshed it out into a full-length, desperately un-funny feature film – in “Mexico Scope” Spanish.
After spending his entire life on his macho father’s ranch in Mexico, ne’er-do-well Armando Alvarez (Ferrell) isn’t terribly bright. But he suspects that something’s amiss when his smarter, more successful, younger brother Raul (Diego Luna) shows up at the hacienda with his sultry fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), and promises to settle all of the debts of their formidable father (the late Pedro Armendariz Jr.) As it turns out, Raul’s international financial acumen has come with a price, as the respected Alvarez family finds itself at odds with the notoriously trigger-happy La Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), Mexico’s most feared drug baron, while Armando falls in love with Sonia, who has her own troubled history with La Onza.
Desperate to fill time, screenwriter Andrew Steele and director Matt Piedmont – Ferrell’s gringo friends from “SNL” and his “Funny or Die” comedy website – throw in a cheesy, clunky, cliché-filled flashback about intended incest and accidental matricide, along with additional drug-dealing scenes, featuring Nick Offerman (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) as a stereotypically bigoted DEA agent. Since La Onza means “snow leopard” in Spanish, mystical animal puppets also get screen time.
A low-budget, joint venture of Lionsgate and Grupo Televisia, Pantelion Films slyly presents itself Hollywood’s first Latino studio. Ferrell speaks Spanish, albeit with doofy, exaggerated diction that’s straight out of the textbooks – and he sings too. Hammy acting prevails, including longtime, south-of-the-border compadres Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. Peyote-fueled production values are intentionally amateurish and tacky, including the obvious use of miniatures, rear-projection of two riders on horseback, and an artsy reflection shot that deliberately includes the image of a crew member. And Christina Aguilera warbles the theme song.
In English with Spanish subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Casa de mi Padre” is a racist, repetitive, ridiculous 1 – unless you’re a devoted fan of Spanish telenovas.