Sometimes an awful lot gets lost in translation in more ways than one, and we’re not just talking Will Ferrell’s bizarre Mexican makeover for Casa De Mi Padre. A project concocted by SNL co-masterminds – director Matt Piedmont and screenwriter Andrew Steele – Casa De Mi Padre and its creative roots in small screen skits are more than evident, in a story begging for bigger ideas. And while crossing the exceedingly thin line here between parody and racial ridicule.
Will Ferrell barely gets into disguise mode as Armando Alvarez, the demeaned son of a wealthy Mexican rancher. Armando is nevertheless loyal and devoted to his father, and toils on the ranch with the hired help while receiving no appreciation from the contemptuous patriarch. We learn eventually that the persecuted offspring has been rejected by Dad, ever since accidentally shooting and killing his mother as a child.
Armando’s torment is exacerbated when his favored younger brother Raul (Diego Luna) turns up with a prospective sexpot bride, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Raul is a successful businessman as well, but unknown to the family, he’s a drug dealer. And his notorious rival, the ruthless drug lord Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal) is gunning for him and has staked out the ranch in preparation for his intended assassination.
Meanwhile, Armando has barely been able to suppress his infatuation with Sonia. And she’s apparently not so hot for Raul anyway. Eventually the naughty pair are engaging in secret sex, primarily involving a buttocks fetish. And with this peculiar erotic encounter constituting the funniest interlude of all, you’ve gotten a pretty good idea by now where this more telenovela tedious than hilarious production is headed. And not helped in the least by a topic like south of the border drug wars – which have resulted in countless murders and chaos in Mexico in recent times – being simply as unfunny as can be.
A Will Ferrell comedy that is conceived entirely in Spanish is distracting, to say the least. Especially with Ferrell’s black dye job making him look less like a Mexican than George Bush in a deju vu routine, but rattling off in a foreign language this time around. Not to mention a film that is so top heavy with subtitles, that it feels decidedly more like reading a movie that watching one.
Which could lead Ferrell to a fate nearly as bad as falling into the hands of depraved drug dealers, and that the Oscar winner The Artist has already been met with at the box office. Namely, audiences demanding their money back because they were not sufficiently informed about a movie being silent – or in Casa De Mi Padre‘s case – subtitled.