JDIFF 2012 REVIEW – Surprise Film 1: Casa De Mi Padre

When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home to his father’s ranch in Mexico, Armando (Will Ferrell) learns that he is involved with Mexico’s most feared drug lord. This leads to a turf war that has devastating consequences.

Casa De Mi Padre played as the first Surprise Film at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film festival and it is one of those films that is going to polarise audiences, especially since they had no idea what they were going to see until the credits rolled.

The film is a combination of the exploitation style of film making, and almost every Will Ferrell movie you have seen to date, to coin a phrase; Willsploitation. Add to this a send up of the Mexican telenovella and Casa De Mi Padre is the result. This may sound incredibly odd – and it is – but it works. There are deliberate nods to exploitation films, through clunky editing, overly revealing dialogue, bad props and lashings of melodrama. Fans of the exploitation style of film making will be in their element, but those out there who have never seen a Pam Grier film and have steered clear of Tarantino’s Grindhouse movies will not be as enthralled.

The story is incredibly simple; Raul returns home to his father’s ranch with his bride to be, Sonia (Genesis Rodruigez). Armando falls in love with her, and it outraged to learn that his brother is a drug dealer. Parker (Nick Offerman), an American DEA agent is happy for the rival drug dealers to kill each other, but Armando steps in to save the day when Sonia is kidnapped and his father is killed. The entire film is overdone; over acted, badly edited and filled with melodrama, but this is all part of the joke. Just as Black Dynamite did for kung fu movies, Casa De Mi Padre is poking fun at the overblown TV movies of the 60s and 70s, and low budget Mexican telenovellas while paying homage to them at the same time.

Ferrell – and the rest of the cast – speaks Spanish throughout the movie, which is truly an admirable commitment to make to a movie for Ferrell to make. Ferrell’s comic timing and ridiculous facial expressions mean that he is capable of breaking through the language barrier, and this could easily be his funniest performance in years. Ferrell is supposed to be over the top and hammy – this is the style of comedy that he does best, Anchorman, anyone? – and it is obvious that he is revelling in the chance to be utterly ridiculous, violent and take advantage of bad props, lighting and sets. Ferrell’s deadpan humour leads the cast to greatness with the film, which includes a genius cameo from Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman.

Casa De Mi Padre is brilliant in it’s commitment to allowing the film to be ‘bad’. There are edits that do not make any sense, continuity nightmares and a panther that is very obviously a giant stuffed toy. There is also a scene that is completely missing, and replaced with a letter to the audience from a ‘crew member’. To commit to such a stylised piece of film making is admirable, and for it to work is a touch of brilliance. Sometimes – especially in the beginning – it feels like the film is trying a little too hard, but this soon disappears as the audience and the film commits to the premise. It is obvious that the cast and crew enjoyed making the film as ‘bad’ and stylised as possible, and the final shootout is a joy to watch. Casa De Mi Padre is one of those rare films that is designed to be bad, and ends up being great.

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