Like Eddie Izzard before him, Will Ferrell has decided to showcase his multitude of talents by dipping into another language for his latest film, La Casa de mi Padre, shot entirely in Spanish.
The film follows the story of Armando Alvarez (Ferrell), a wholesome and simple Mexican rancher who loves nothing more than tending to the cows on his father’s ranch and the joys of the land. That is, until his brother Raul returns home with his beautiful girlfriend Sonia, and you’d better believe she means trouble. Raul is now a successful “businessman” and we all know what that can mean in Mexico. Pretty soon Armando’s life takes a turn for the dirty game too.
The whole film is a pastiche of archetypal Mexican soap operas, or telenovelas. It comes complete with painted-on backdrops, ridiculous props and gloriously hammy acting. This, coupled with gratuitous slapping and frequent use of sneaky mannequins, keeps the laughs a-minute. Add to the mix enough guns to invade Paris (at least six) and you have yourself one exciting film!
Will Ferrell only set about learning Spanish after the film was commissioned, a month before filming started. But rather than hinder its impact, his rigid Spanish acting is perfect for the roll of the stoic hero. The film is given Spanish clout by the rest of the cast, all seasoned actors, who speak Spanish with their mothers. Everyone is seen outrageously over-acting, drinking cocktails during gunfights and tending to animals that look like they’ve escaped from Hamleys. Gael Garcia Bernal is so sinister he could frighten a Dementor as the drug lord “La Onza,” managing to kill someone within the first five minutes of the film with true villainous aplomb. Diego Luna smoulders away as the sexy yet misguided brother Raul and, in her big screen debut, playing Raul’s glamorous and troublesome girlfriend Sonia, Genesis Rodriguez is positively picante!
La Casa de mi Padre is directed by Matt Piedmont, who cut his teeth writing and directing for the sketch show Saturday Night Live, but has few feature length films on his CV. In addition, the film was written by Andrew Steele, another SNL old boy with an impressive comedy writing career but very little of it feature length. This, perhaps, means that the film’s overall laugh count suffers slightly. The constant barrage of belly laughs that we have come to expect from Ferrell’s films is a little depleted and the absence of Ferrell’s usual partner Adam McKay is notable.
That said, La Casa de mi Padre is definitely funny with some moments of genuine hilarity. It doesn’t once feels slow and relentlessly refuses to take itself anything close to seriously. And if you can think of a better way to practice your Spanish, I’d certainly like to hear it.
Casa De mi Padre is out now in UK cinemas.
Text: Jack Barry