Casa de mi Padre, a comedy starring Will Ferrell, Diego Luna, and Gael García Bernal, opened this weekend pulling in a respectable $2.3 million with a mostly Latino audience. Spanish with English subtitles, the film parodies the telenovelas, westerns, cartel pictures and action shoot-‘em-ups many of us have grown up on. The story centers around a passionate and honest rancher, Armando Alvarez (Ferrell), and his fight to restore honor to his family upon learning his brother Raul (Luna) is a drug dealer with some big time enemies (Bernal).
Caricaturing images that are already caricatures results in a parade of over-the-top meta caricatures. But, that’s the point. Prior to the film’s release, a few isolated commenters on various websites and forums clamored that these images are little more than distasteful racial and gender stereotypes. However, such criticisms against Casa de mi Padre are completely unwarranted–and reflect an unfortunate misunderstanding of the genre. Casa de mi Padre is a fun parody, necessarily employing an entire cast of stereotypical characters in the creation of a solid and entertaining flick. At no point did I find myself offended by the film–nor did I find myself offended by the laughter of white audience members in the theater. Any bigots that may have come to laugh at stupid Meskins were also treated to equally exaggerated caricatures of gringos, particularly American law enforcement. In fact, the most scathing social commentary was reserved for Americans–whom are referred to blunty in the film as shit-eating monsters. However, aside from bashing American consumer culture and the United States’ giant drug problem, there wasn’t much else in the deep social commentary department. True to form, the more-Hollywood-than-indie comedy is cheap-laugh provoking more so than thought-provoking.
There were a few fleeting moments of ab-crunching laughs. Will Ferrell and his main love interest played by Genesis Rodriguez deliver one of the funniest sex scenes I have ever seen. Gael Garcia Bernal plays a foppish villain whose accessories alone are quite laughable. Throughout, there is plenty of simple dialogue that proves good for a stupid chuckle or two. And, Ferrell’s trademark intense delivery translates well into his melodramatic Spanish-speaking role (he learned Spanish for the film, BTW). But most of the time, Casa de mi Padre is just a slightly above average comedy. In some places, scenes drag. At its worst, it’s painfully SNL-esque with silly props and goofy sets.
Bottom line: I saw this movie with my buddy. We laughed. If you go see it with your buddies, you’ll laugh, too. This film is recommended viewing for people seeking a light to moderate laugh session, buddies are optional. This film is not recommended for people who do not know the difference between brownface and parody.