By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Will Ferrell gets additional points here for risk taking, but not much in the way of enthusiastic applause.
For a second straight time, he uses his A-list comedy superstardom to try something a little smaller and a little different. But whereas his previous outing, Everything Must Go, remained interesting and justified if not triumphant, his latest starring vehicle stalls and sputters.
Casa de Mi Padre (“My Father’s House”) is a parody of Mexican soap operas and westerns, a Spanish-language American comedy in the style of an overly dramatic Latin American telenovela.
But it suffers from a bad case of stretch-a-sketch syndrome.
That is, while it would work splendidly as an eight-minute “Saturday Night Live” sketch — no surprise there, given that nearly everyone behind the scenes was at one point connected with that TV series.
But distended to even modest feature length (85 minutes), it becomes an oppressively repetitive, one-note affair.
Ferrell — whose American-accented Spanish sounds impeccable and easily passes muster — stars as Armando Alvarez, the dimwitted heir to a modern-day Mexican ranch on which he has lived and worked his entire life. But the ranch is in severe financial difficulty.
Then Armando’s kid brother, Raul, played by Diego Luna, who’s always been good at everything Armando is bad at, shows up with his gorgeous fiancée, Sonia, played by Genesis Rodriguez.
A successful international businessman, Raul pledges to settle all of his father’s debts. But it turns out that Raul’s business dealings are not legitimate.
To save their father’s ranch, the Alvarezes find themselves in a war with Mexico’s most feared drug lord, Onza, played by Gael Garcia Bernal.
And to further complicate matters, Armando falls at first glance for Sonia, who shares a history with Onza. So, not only will betrayal and violence be on the menu, but love and sex will crop up as well.
Debuting director Matt Piedmont, a writer alum from “SNL,” pushes his cast into grotesquely broad line readings, exaggerated facial expressions, and endlessly sustained bouts of raucous laughter, and sends up the shoddy production values of the underfunded telenovelas and low-budget westerns by making sure that the backdrops, the livestock, the “locations,” and just about everything that fills the frame is either cheap or fake.
In other words, the supremely silly Casa de Mi Padre isn’t just over the top, it’s over the moon.
Ferrell also served as a producer, along with Adam McKay and Andrew Steele (another “SNL” alum), who wrote the screenplay.
As distinctive a comedic on-screen presence as Ferrell has been, as much hearty entertainment as he has been responsible for providing, he richly deserves leeway as he experiments along with his collaborators. But somebody on this project should have noticed just how far inside the casa the joke remains throughout this spoof.
Even for fans of the telenovelas, who will get the primary joke much more readily than the uninitiated, this one stops being funny pretty quickly.
So we’ll translate 2 stars out of 4 for this subtitled and subpar demonstration of Ferrell’s “free will.” Casa de Mi Padre is a glorified skit that runs out of gas long before the halfway point.