“Mi nombre es Armando Alvarez”
Kris Kristofferson introduces Casa de mi Padre with a disclaimer which would sound like an apology for the entire film being in Spanish were it not for the man who played Sam Peckinpah’s Billy the Kid doing the talking. Instead Kristofferson’s gruff amiable delivery is more like a friendly warning, the kind Billy would make before he gunned somebody down. It is fitting because as funny as Case de mi Padre the film is also an entertaining Western put together by people who clearly have a lot of respect for the genre.
Writer Andrew Steele and director Matt Piedmont are both Saturday Night Live alumni and have worked on Ferrell’s Funny or Die website. Casa de mi Padre might seem more suited for a short sketch but you have to admire Ferrell and his posse for going all the way and making a film so defiantly out there that its best hope is finding a cult following on DVD. The Other Guys (2010, Adam McKay) worked for audiences because everybody knows the conventions of the buddy cop movie but Casa de mi Padre is Ferrell’s most esoteric film to date. Technically it may recall other retro homage’s like Machete (2010, Robert Rodriguez) or Black Dynamite (2009, Scott Sanders) with its deliberately scratchy look and dodgy editing, but Casa de mi Padre has a weirdness all of its own.
Dim bulb Armando Alvarez (Ferrell) lives and works on his father’s ranch herding cattle and hanging out with his ranchero buddies Esteban (Efren Ramirez) and Manuel (Adrian Martinez). Armando’s idyllic life is thrown into turmoil when his slick younger brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home from the city with his beautiful girlfriend Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Being a male virgin more at home on the range than in the company of women it takes Armando a while to realise Sonia is the girl for him. Unbeknownst to his family favoured son Raul is a drug dealer determined to go up against the white suited leader of the local cartel (Gael Garcia Bernal) for control of the area’s narcotics trade and Armando finds himself caught in the crossfire.
Ferrell’s Spanish is impressive and delivered in deadpan while the subtitles give the impression of being put together by somebody who uses English as their second language. “I will beat you with both these hands.” Genesis Rodriguez is a real find, beautiful but capable of mixing it with the boys. Oddly enough both their performances are absolutely sincere which makes it even funnier. Mexican bromantics Bernal and Luna ham it up nicely with the latter delivering a hilarious speech about why it’s okay to sell drugs to Americans. As with The Other Guys there are social concerns present in the film but they never weigh down the narrative. Best of all is the Morricone influenced soundtrack with a belting Christina Aguilera opener and some inspired musical numbers including a terrific duet between Ferrell and Rodriguez over the final credits.