Will Ferrell is one of those guys who often gets “benefit of the doubt” laughter. Even if what he’s doing right now isn’t funny, you know that he’s been funny in the past, and maybe laughing at his stuff is a kind of muscle memory. That’s the only thing I could think of when watching the trailer for Casa de mi Padre, because even though the trailer mostly plays it straight without any real evidence of comedy, there were people laughing through the trailer every time I saw it.
Whatever impression the trailer may provide, the film actually does try to be a comedy. I say “try”, because it’s not always very successful at this. It features Ferrell as Armando, the son of a wealthy but aging Mexican rancher who is about ready to hand over the reins to someone else. He would prefer that person not be Armando, because although he works hard, he’s not very smart, and his father doesn’t have much confidence in him. But Armando has an older brother Raul (Diego Luna) who is a successful businessman and conveniently shows up at just the right time in the plot to keep the story moving. And Raul has also brought with him his beautiful fiancee Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) who stirs up some feelings in Armado that he’s never had before.
Mexico can be a pretty dangerous place, in large part because of the drug dealers that roam the area. As a child, Armando’s mother was killed right in front of him when she was accosted by a couple of dealers, and just recently he witnessed another murder on his own property when area kingpin Onza (Gael García Bernal) executed a competing dealer. This has instilled Armando with an understandable dislike for drug dealers, and that creates some conflicting feelings when he learns that his brother Raul is himself engaged in the trade. But what makes it even worse for him is that Raul frequently sells in the United States, so he is not only in danger from Onza but also from the American DEA.
Casa de me Padre has the feeling of a very entry-level film. It is subtitled, but it uses only basic Spanish, so anyone who took Spanish 101 in high school (and learned a few curse words on the side) can probably follow along without too much difficulty. Its humor is at a similar level of sophistication, making use of puppets and models and dumb jokes that are often so obvious that you’ve usually anticipated and gotten tired of a gag before it’s even happened. There are a few laughs, but not enough to keep things entertaining for the entirety of its short 84-minute runtime. I would say it’s the kind of film for people who don’t like to think too much, but when you’re in the mood to watch a movie that doesn’t make you think, you’re probably not in the mood to have to read what people are saying.
I had pretty low expectations when I went into the movie, and it did manage to exceed them, so at least that’s a positive. It’s not a horrible movie by any stretch, but it’s just lazy and ineffective when it comes to comedy.