Thursday, March 29, 2012

Su Casa Es Mi Casa? A CASA DE MI PADRE Review!


- It's fitting that I sit down to write this review having just watched Will Ferrell appear on Conan, in character, as Anchorman's Ron Bergundy. As the mustachioed news anchor announced the impending arrival of Anchorman 2, he was greeted with rapturous applause from the studio audience. Very quickly, the Conan clip went viral, and became the talk of the interwebs. The fact is, Ferrell has been in some movies of questionable quality over the years, but we forgive him because when he's at his best, we get movies like Anchorman - stone cold comedy classics. Nobody does deadpan absurdism like Ferrell, and that, I think, is what makes Case de mi Padre so instantly likable. It's classic Will Ferrell, on acid. Somehow, Ferrell and co. took a comedy sketch premise that would have been on past the 12:30 am mark on SNL, and made a whole movie out of it. The premise is the joke of CASA, and it's a joke that's milked for all it's worth. This makes for a movie that is periodically hilarious, though it also means that, eventually, the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

So what is this movie? Basically, it's this: it's Will Ferrell as a Mexican rancher and unlikely hero in a Spanish-language B-movie satire. It's essentially the SNL sketch version of Machete, only less badassery and more silliness. In the film, Ferrell is Armando Alvarez, one of two brothers who must go to war with a drug lord to save his father's ranch - and seduce his brother's curvaceous ladyfriend in the process.

The film uses the same sorts of mock-B-movie techniques we've seen in films like Machete and Grindhouse - missing reels, intentionally grainy film quality, and gleefully over-the-top characters and dialogue. But CASA takes things a step further by piling on the absurdity. For one thing, the whole movie is in Spanish, and the central joke is the mere presence of Ferrell's blissfully oblivious Spanish-speaking character, who obviously stands out from the rest of the hispanic cast. Ferrell's Spanish is actually pretty good, but part of the joke is simply his total commitment to the character. No matter how weird or silly things get, Ferrell plays things pretty straight. The comedy can get broad (like in a crazy-ass sex scene that shifts from human actors to mannequins when things get hot n' heavy), but Ferrell himself never does. And that - the fact that the movie only seldom gives a blatant wink to the audience, makes the more subtle humor all the funnier. The interesting thing is that Ferrell is surrounded by a supporting cast chock full of legit latino actors - names like Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. He's also joined by Genesis Rodriguez, who plays his love interest. Genesis makes a huge impression here - she seems totally game for all of the wacky stuff the script throws at her, but also appears to have some dramatic chops as well.

I guess my issue with the movie was that, in between some of the standout moments of hilarity, it can get a bit boring. The movie plays it so straight sometimes that you can sometimes forget you're watching a comedy and begin to feel like you're watching some actual assembly-line Mexican B-movie. It's become a bit of a cliche to say that certain comedies feel like an SNL sketch stretched out to 90 minutes, but that really is how CASA sometimes feels. There just seems to have been the bare minimum of material needed to make a movie out of this premise. To that end, I think the movie suffers a bit in comparison to something like Machete. Whereas Robert Rodriguez infused that film with a true passion for the B-movie genre, CASA has only a very vague link to the sorts of films that it ostensibly parodies. The movie could have benefited from having some fun action to go along with the comedy, for example. But there really isn't much to the film other than the central premise/joke. You don't get the sense that there was much passion at the root of this one - it's more that, quite simply, Ferrell and co. wanted to see if they could get away with making this movie.

And ultimately, the mere fact that this film exists is sort of what makes it uniquely and inherently funny and amusing. There is, certainly, pleasure to be had just watching CASA and laughing in disbelief that a movie this self-consciously random exists. Essentially, this becomes like the ultimate version of one of those Family Guy gags that just keeps going and going, all the while fluctuating between being funny, hilarious, repetitive, awkward, and back to being funny again. For that reason, I think CASA is sort of a must-see for comedy fans. I mean, in a world where big-screen comedies tend to be uber-formulaic and by the numbers, here is something that probably shouldn't even exist from any sort of commercial perspective, and yet does. Even when the film flounders to stay interesting, and even when the joke wears thin, that fact alone makes it worth watching and paying attention to.

My Grade: B

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