Will Ferrell has probably made enough money that he can do more or less as he pleases without jeopardizing his financial security. So what does a man of Ferrell's talents do with that sort of commercial and artistic freedom? Well, he makes a Spanish-language comedy that's a spoof of the wildly popular telenovelas, aka Latin soaps.
Make no mistake, "Casa de mi Padre," Ferrell's latest film, is a Spanish-language film with English subtitles. If you have no tolerance for foreign films, be warned that this film is more than 90% in Spanish.
"Casa de mi Padre" is the story of a once proud Mexican family that gets caught in the crossfire of a drug war. Ferrell is Armando Alvarez, the dim-bulb son who still lives at home with his father. Armando has never shown any interest in women until his brother, Raul (Diego Luna), returns home with his fiancé, the gorgeous Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). You can guess where this is going.
Though papa Alvarez is proud of Raul for being a successful businessman, it's soon clear that he's not come by his wealth honestly. And in short order the Alvarez clan is exposed to Raul's battle with fellow "narco," Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). All the while, DEA Agent Parker (Nick Offerman) is busily stoking the fires of the burgeoning drug war between the two factions.
The film was written by "SNL" alum Andrew Steele, and directed by "SNL" alum Matt Piedmont, who have clearly spent far too much time together watching telenovelas. The film is both homage and spoof, a succession of riffs on arch melodrama, family intrigue, the faraway looks, the heavy-handed use of music… It's like "Dallas" on steroids and Red Bull.
"Casa de mi Padre" takes the low-budget look that is a hallmark of the genre to the extreme. Background extras that are mannequins, painted backdrops with visible seams, stock footage used for multiple scenes, a mountain lion that is obviously a stuffed animal, and a host of continuity issues.
Because a lot of the best laughs are sight gags, if you feel compelled to follow the subtitles, you'll miss many of them. Though that may end up being one of the film's strengths when it moves to home video, helping it stand up to repeated viewings by the chemically compromised audience for which "Casa de mi Padre" has clearly been made. They will surely hoot with glee upon each new discovery.
There are genuinely hilarious moments sprinkled throughout this film, and it's got a strong chance of being a cult favorite on campuses across the land, but if you're a Will Ferrell fan looking for another dose of "Anchorman"-style laughs, you'll be sorely disappointed.
"Casa de mi Padre" opens in limited release Friday