Will Ferrell’s Latino lark: muy bizarro, but not funny

  • Wed Mar 14th, 2012 1:57pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

If people will come to a silent movie like “The Artist,” why wouldn’t they come to a Spanish-language film starring a top-line Hollywood comedian?

Put aside for a moment that people aren’t really coming to “The Artist” (its success, delightful as it is, is very small in box-office terms compared to an average multiplex hit). Will Ferrell’s new movie, “Casa de mi Padre,” might have found an audience despite being in Spanish with English subtitles … had it been funny.

But it’s not all that funny. Weird, yes. Muy bizarro, you might say. But not really funny enough, in any language.

Ferrell plays the fat-headed son of a Mexican rancher (the venerable character actor Pedro Armendariz Jr., who died in December). Ferrell’s brother (Diego Luna) returns home as a corrupt drug dealer, accompanied by a bombshell, played by Genesis Rodriguez.

You will be hearing much more about Genesis Rodriguez, and not just because of her name. She made a favorable impression earlier this year in “Man on a Ledge,” although “Casa de mi Padre” carries the credit “introducing” her. Which shows how long this movie has been sitting on the shelf (a year or so, anyway).

The film’s credits include two of Ferrell’s collaborators at “Saturday Night Live” and “Funny Or Die,” namely Andrew Steele (screenplay) and Matt Piedmont (director). They’ve crafted the movie as a send-up of a certain kind of overheated Latino melodrama: low-budget, badly edited, feverishly acted.

This results in some amusing moments: scenes played in front of patently fake-looking sets or bad rear projection, for instance. The entire film is a sustained, single joke that would’ve been great as a five-minute “Funny or Die” bit, but gets a little long at an hour and a half.

The spectacle of Ferrell speaking Spanish is funny, although it robs him of his gift for riffing. Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal (the co-stars of “Y Tu Mama Tambien”) clearly relish the idea of playing comedy, and Efren Ramirez (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Adrian Martinez provide able support as Ferrell’s ranch-hand buddies.

I like the idea of the movie, the risk of it. Seen on late-night cable, it will provide a few eyeball-rubbing “What th’ heck did I just see?” moments. But despite the scattered bits of inspired craziness, the whole thing remains a funny idea that fails to ignite.

“Casa de mi Padre” (2 stars)

Will Ferrell as the fat-headed son of a Mexican rancher, in a would-be cult comedy conducted almost entirely in Spanish. Some of the parody stuff of Latino melodrama works, but the movie’s more weird than funny. With Genesis Rodriguez. In Spanish, with English subtitles.

Rated: R for violence, nudity.

Showing: Pacific Place.