My general rule with Will Ferrell is that if he isn’t playing a shouty manchild then I’m probably on board. It’s the shouting more than the manchild that bothers me. When he plays someone who is merely naïve, like he does here, then he can be sweet, but when he leans towards the bratty side of childishness then he gives me a headache.
It’s good that this movie is anchored by such a sincere performance from Ferrell because otherwise there would have been a particularly rank undertone to Casa de mi Padre, which is a parody of Mexican telenovas performed entirely in Spanish. Because most of the mean jokes are about how dumb Ferrell’s character is and because Ferrell seems so earnest in the role the movie lacks the condescending tone it could have easily had.
That said, some of the jokes about the shoddiness of the production values of telenovas still feel a bit like low-blows in a way that similar jokes in the blaxploitation parody Black Dynamite did not. Black Dynamite did such a thorough job of recreating the blaxploitation milieu that a few visible boom mics seemed completely appropriate, whereas Casa de mi Padre is much more selective about the verisimilitude of it’s look. There was something cheap about all of the cuts to people riding “horses” that were clearly hobby horses given that the movie spared no expense in it’s big action pieces.
[By the way, I decided to use as many fancy words as I could in that last paragraph because it seemed appropriate to be a bit pretentious when discussing movies that went to a lot of trouble to create exact duplicates of visual styles that were originally created by being half-assed. I, too, overdo my responses to fast and cheap b-movies.)
Anyway, Casa’s tendency to wander away from it’s central premise is probably it’s ultimate strength, since parodying the style of a specific type of soap opera would be limiting over a course of a whole movie. Alternating between parody, broad physical comedy and surreal anti-comedy keeps the movie from being consistent, but that delicate balancing act also keeps the movie from becoming too one note or predictable. I’m fine with the fact that this movie is probably not going to be Ferrell’s most well known, but it’s better than it has any right to be, and it’s also better than a lot of his more popular but more thunderous movies.