When I see Will Ferrell's name attached to anything, I, like most people, assume at the very least that his performance will prove funny, even if the rest of the movie falters and never really manages to find its grounding, this was certainly the case with Old School and a ton of other comedies involving the well-established funny man. However, I remember seeing passing trailers and hints at the absurdity that was to be an almost all Spanish language film in which Ferrell, a decidedly not Spanish actor would play the lead. The absolute brilliance of such a film, both conceptually and risky could not be ignored, yet it seems as though the movie came and went with little or no noise whatsoever, probably due entirely to the fact that anybody who were to attend this film would be subjected to reading subtitles, a veritable death sentence to assuring sales, particularly in regards to American comedy. Yet, Ferrell, as well as the remainder of his cast, many of which are well-established Spanish speaking actors, provide for a thoroughly hilarious film that is as post-modern as they come and almost appears to be in the vein of a Tarantino film, although in the case of this film, it does not have the underlying hipness and relies solely on absurdity...to some degree satirizing the overly aggressive stylized nature of both action films and old school spaghetti westerns. The film, Casa de mi Padre, directed by long time Saturday Night Live writer Matt Piedmont, provides a complete undermining of what viewers have come to accept as visually consumable comedic film, while also reinforcing some of the traditional tropes and absurdities. Where I found Casa de mi Padre to be somewhat out of the ordinary was within its rather serious considerations of what it was satirizing and the methods by which it was doing so, specifically in its use of humor to consider the troubles of a transnational border trade and the manner with which language barriers affect its success, as well as how failures to communicate challenge its suppression. Undoubtedly, much of this films assured production must have laid in the hands of one Will Ferrell and its passionate execution, should be, to some degree, credited to its main actor.
Casa de mi Padre focuses on the initially simpleton lifestyle of ranchero Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) who desires to make the best of his families land and longs to find companionship with a woman who shares his feelings. While his father Miguel Ernesto (Pedro Armendariz Jr) seems to dismiss his every action and thought as stupid, due heavily to blaming Armando for his wife's death, Armando nonetheless takes life with strides and lives by his promise to keep his name honorable. However, with the return of the family's prodigal son Raul (Diego Luna) and his fiance Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) things in the world of Armando Alvarez quickly become altered, due to a combination of his own burgeoning feelings for the extremely attractive Sonia, as well as a realization that his brother is tied into the drug trade across The United States and is quickly becoming enemies with Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). To make matters much worse, Armando and his family become the point of attack by government officials who see them as central figures in the trafficking of drugs, this operation is led by a hyper-patriotic "American" speaking officer named Greg Parker (Nick Offerman). While Armando pleads with his brother to extract himself from the life of drugs and violence it is not until a violent shootout on the day of Raul and Sonia's wedding which results in Miguel's death that any serious thought is taken on ending the tragic lifestyle, which of course means that they must take down Onza a task which results in a huge shootout and the death of Raul. This death while, unfortunate, affords Armando the means to create a relationship with Sonia, one that allows him to exact revenge on his mother's attempted racist and take down corrupt American drug agents. Also at some some point in time a Bengal Tiger plays into the plot, but that is just one of the many extra elements to a heavily packed non-traditional comedy.
So if this is a comedy can one really take anything it is saying about the American-Mexican drug trade with any level of seriousness, perhaps not, yet the level of detail placed on considering the rhetoric of those involved as well as the misunderstandings of the lesser persons involved in such a world cannot be overlooked. Agent Greg Parker beautifully represents the trouble of illogically conservative individuals blaming Mexico for their drug problems, as opposed to considering the social breakdown in America leading to young children desiring to get high, it is a classic example of wrongfully placed blame, in this case by Americans onto Mexicans for their inability to end drug use. Similalry, we are provided a dueling vision of The United States via brothers Armando and Raul, one seeing it as a glorious place of golden paved streets and endless dreams, while the other deems it a filthy place full of terrible persons that act like children, of course, neither is completely right or wrong in their claims, yet they both fail to consider how their own country has its share of problems, many of which are eerily similar. This is where language seems to emerge as a point of criticism, the assumptions shared by both groups seem to be based on their inability to explain certain ideas or notions, outside of their cultural context and it is not until Armando shares a conversation with another agent at the end of the film that both sides realize that much of their disdain and contempt for the other side is grounded in stereotypes and lies promoted by higher forces. There is also a considerable amount of the narrative focused on honor and sacrifice, and a suggestion that both values are necessary to assure safety and civility in one of the most tenuous yet seemingly crossable borders in the world.
Key Scene: There is a moment where Will Ferrell literally shows his ass multiple times and it proves to be a laugh out loud moment during a generally funny film.
This is yet another reward from the Watch Instantly category as I attempt to wrap up some of the missed films of the year. It is great and certainly worth checking out and I am ashamed it did not receive more hype upon release.