I'm fully aware that this movie currently sits at Rotten Tomatoes with a pitiful 44%. I know what that means for me as a reviewer to consider giving such a poorly graded film such a great grade. However, Will Ferrell's best work has never been met with stellar reviews. Anchorman, a film which I consider one of the funniest comedies of all time, has only a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes. Although, this deserves a lower grade than the cult classic that spawned countless quotable Ron Burgendy and company lines, Casa de mi Padre deserves the same level of respect.
When I heard that Ferrell and Producer/Director/Writer/Buddy Adam McKay wanted to do a comedy that was all in Spanish, my eyes rolled so hard you could hear them. But from the very opening seconds of the film, you realize that nothing is lost in translation as far as tone goes. This is still the same absurdist humor that you expect from this creative team. What makes this even more surprising is that it's also a splendid tribute to the Grindhouse genre of self-aware, bad b-movies. That is what fills in the gaps when the dialogue isn't cutting it.
The film is directed by Matt Piedmont, doing his first feature and only knowing Ferrell and McKay through their Funny or Die website. He does an amazing job reveling in the piss-poor quality of filmmaking and budget disasters that made these style of films infamous. Half of the comedy comes from obvious continunity mistakes, awful special FX, sloppy edits and even mannequins standing in for scenes where they couldn't get enough actors for the roles. It's genius and makes the movie worth watching over and over again to play I Spy with all the hidden treasures. The subtitles make it hard to find them all and at times I stopped reading them just to keep my eyes panning for silliness in the backgrounds.
Oh yeah. Subtitles. This movie is all in Spanish. Can Will Ferrell speak Spanish? No he can't. He learned it just for this movie, which is a bold and crazy stunt to pull off just to say you did. He's joined by an all Spanish-speaking cast including Diego Luna (Milk, The Terminal) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel, The Motorcycle Diaries). Everyone in Casa di me Padre gets the joke and they're great at telling it. The only problem with the subtitles is that the cadence of the lines is thrown off a bit and if you're watching it with people who speak Spanish, they'll be ahead of you on every joke because they hear it faster than you can read it.
This is far from a perfect comedy and I'm very aware that this isn't for everyone. It comes across as an inside joke or a bet that Ferrell made with someone. "I'll bet I can make an entire movie in Spanish and it'll STILL be really freakin' funny!" But it does run thin at times and feel like it might have made a better TV show or Internet skit. It's slightly longer than it needs to be, which is silly considering how purposefully stupid and simple the plot is. But it's a comedy that reminded me why Ferrell is one of the working kings of comedy right now and deserves at least a viewing...or if you're me several more to follow.
Casa de mi Padre (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A-