Directed by Matt Piedmont
Written by Andrew Steele
Produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Emilio Diez Barroso, Darlene Caamaño Loquet & Steele
Released by NALA/Pantelion Films
Spanish with English subtitles.
USA. 84 min. Rated R
With Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Genesis Rodriguez, Pedro Armendáriz Jr, Nick Offerman, Efren Ramirez & Adrian Martinez

In Casa de Mi Padre, a broad parody of Latin B westerns, Will Ferrell does his best Lee Van Cleef impression. In Spanish, no less. How did he pull this off? Language class, lots of rehearsal, and a pretty darn familiar script. The story is inconsequential. Wealthy father favors his older son, Raul (Diego Luna), who, thanks to his illicit dealings, eventually lands the family in trouble with a local drug lord, La Onza, “The Ounce” (Gael García Bernal). The younger, hopelessly romantic, underdog son, Armando (played by Ferrell, simultaneously the most unlikely and likely choice to play the Mexican lead in this zany spoof), rallies to the defense.

If Quentin Tarantino and his fanboy ilk (I’m looking at you, Takashi Miike) haven’t proven how easy it is to spoof the exploitation idiom already, I suppose this is further evidence. Continuity errors, poor special effects, gratuitous musical numbers, and canned melodrama abound. But spaghetti westerns were deconstructionist, not parody. Casa shows very little love for its form and holds itself to very little dramatic responsibility, so that it’s very hard to actually care about its characters. For all intents and purposes, this feature-length Funny or Die sketch works mostly as just a farce.

Ferrell performs some handiwork here just in pulling off the Spanish, but Talladega Nights this is not. Luna and Bernal, on the other hand, steal the show. The first scene, which features the three, is the best in the film—the often too-comic Luna committing wholeheartedly to Raul’s twisted world, and the usually stoic Bernal taking on deadpan comedy masterfully. For this pair, Casa feels like a lark. Well, gracias a Dios for them, because otherwise even the mariachi interludes and borderline offensive stereotypes quickly get old.

One saving grace is the underlying social commentary. Raul justifies to Armando why the Mexican drug trade will ultimately make Mexico stronger and America weaker: supplying cocaine to “fat, monstrous” Americans is like feeding candy to babies. (“It’s irresponsible to feed candy to babies,” blurts Armando in a moment of lucidity.) Later, a U.S. DEA officer, played by funny man Nick Offerman, states upon witnessing the carnage wreaked in the drug wars: “All this so daddy’s little girl can have a dime bag.”

I could go on about the confusing elements or misfires, but my biggest gripe is that it’s just not funny enough. Luna and Bernal have their moments, and watch for Napoleon Dynamite’s Efren Ramirez as a disaffected ranch hand, but Ferrell himself is far too laden with the challenges of the role, and the parody quirks, as I’ve said, fall flat. Not to say you won’t have a good time, just be prepared for something other than the mindless fun Ferrell’s reputation might promise. You’ll need to bring a little more to it than usual.