Casa De Mi Padre | Matt Piedmont | 2012
Having lived in Mexico for many years, there is no way I could have escaped being exposed to the telenovela, the Mexican soap opera. These shows are mostly terrible, as they mostly follow the same main plot with only a few variations in plot devices and substories between them all (there have been a few great exceptions, though). They are mostly about a man or woman from the wrong side of the tracks falling in love with a man or woman from high society and the evil forces trying to keep them apart. But even so, with their terrible writing, production values, and overall filmmaking they can be terribly addicting. You can stare and point out the problems with every single aspect of the production, and yet you won’t be able to pull yourself form the television. It is a genre ripe for parody, not only of its tropes, but also of its viewers. That is why I was looking forward to Casa De Mi Padre, which was sold as such a parody. But alas, much like its subject, the film suffers from lack of creativity, letting its faith hang by feature-length joke that gets old pretty quickly. The result is one of the worst films of the year.
Casa De Mi Padre follows Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell), a Mexican rancher who thinks nothing gets better than life in his ranch despite the fact that his dad (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.) treats him like dirt. One day, his beloved brother (Diego Luna) and his fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez) arrive at the ranch supposedly with the intention to get married, but things aren’t quite what they seem to be, and soon they find themselves in trouble with the local drug lord, Onze (Gael Garcia Bernal). And so, it will be up to Armando to save his beloved ranch and his family from Onze, corrupt authorities, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
There was a lot of room for success for this film. But the problem with it was that it is obvious that neither the writers, the director, nor the producers had ever seen an episode of a telenovela. The ridiculousness of said format doesn’t come only from its obviously fake sets, the bad performances, or the bad music choices. Rather, it comes from its plethora of bad subplots and the many tangled webs that connect them to the main plot. There is none of that here. Rather, it just focuses on the lamest story they could have come up with for a telenovela spoof, and that would be a bad plot for just about any movie. So with all this, the success of the film rides on whether or not the joke of seeing Will Ferrell speaking Spanish will be good enough to last for 80 minutes. It doesn’t. It gets old about two minutes into the movie. And so with that all you have is this lame, terribly written story filled with all these random and unfunny things popping up throughout and with terrible comedic timing.
The thing that irked me the most about it though was the cinematography. The cinematography in televolelas looks clinical and aritificial as if they were obviously shot on set or with full-blown daylight. The cinematography in this film is simply too good. The lighting, camera tricks, and compositions are something that Mexican novellas would never have.
They do get a couple of thing right though. I did chuckle at the dramatic angles and close-ups used to point out that something is supposed to be dramatic. The acting is appropriately over-the-top, and the purposeful continuity errors are sometimes cute. But that’s all that it has going for it. There’s not even a performance that I could say it stood out from the amount of crap on the screen. As much as it pains me to say it given the expectations I had for it, this movie belongs in the hall of shame of spoofs alongside the Friedberg/Seltzer’s filmography.