Cinema Review: Casa de mi Padre

DIR: Matt Piedmont • WRI: Andrew Steele • PRO: Emilio Diez Barroso, Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, Darlene Caamano Loquet, Adam McKay, Kevin J. Messick • DOP: Ramsey Nickell • ED: David Trachtenberg • DES: Kevin Kavanaugh • Cast: Will Ferrell, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna

In the past decade, film spoofs have all been a bit too obvious – scary movies, superhero movies, disaster movies (which apparently include Juno, go figure). But Will Ferrell has never been one to go for the obvious joke, and his latest, directed by Saturday Night Live alumnus Matt Piedmont, targets a subgenre that much of its audience will not even be aware exists: Spanish-language telenovelas.

Sure there are a handful of gags poking fun at Westerns and grindhouse films (and even hints at Brian de Palma’s Scarface), but Casa de mi Padre really takes its spoof target by the reins and goes with it… possibly to a fault.

Almost entirely in Spanish with subtitles, and with Ferrell showing an impressive ear for the language, Casa de mi Padre is either an inspired attempt to get America’s massive Latin population into cinemas, or a linguistic misfire alienating the comedian’s core, Anglophonic audience. Exactly which of these groups it is targeting remains unclear.

Ferrell stars as Armando, a simple Mexican ranch hand and heir to his father’s lands. As the ranch falls into difficulty, Armando’s handsome, successful brother Raúl (Diego Luna) returns home to save the day. Problems arise when Armando falls for Raúl’s beautiful fiancé Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), and Raúl’s dodgy dealings get the ranch into trouble with local drug baron Onza (Gael García Bernal).

The film milks its melodrama for all it’s worth, with some delightfully over the top performances, but sadly it’s all very predictable. Ferrell’s ad-lib shtick doesn’t translate particularly well, so the film is forced to use cheap visual gags and non sequiturs to earn its laughs. Many of these jokes rely on the low-budget styles of Mexican soap opera; the film is riddled with intentional continuity errors and needlessly cheap special effects. While this does result in the film’s sole superb gag, when the special effects go completely awry, it shows the limitations of the material.

The film’s running gag, that it’s in Spanish, eventually becomes unnoticeable, except when the poor editing causes subtitles to run across cuts and become illegible. There is also a problem with Ferrell’s character, whose competence is so ill-defined that he veers between being a little slow and borderline mentally disabled.

Thankfully the cast are all game, although it’s unfortunate Luna and García Bernal don’t play on their previous roles together – it would have been fun for them to bring to the fore the homoeroticism that lurked under the surface of Y Tu Mamá También. While showing only some promise as an actress, the ravishingly beautiful Genesis Rodriguez makes the sort of first impression that Cameron Diaz made in The Mask; a star is born, no doubt. Fun support is provided by Napoleon Dynamite’s Pedro, Efren Ramirez, and Adrian Martinez as Armando’s ranch hand pals, while fans of Parks & Recreation will be disappointed to see that show’s breakout star Nick Offerman reduced to a grunting drug enforcement agent.

While a few silly musical numbers liven up proceedings (including one frankly bizarre sex scene), the film never lives up to its opening title song, a thrilling Spanish ballad belted over the credits by Christina Aguilera. It’s a very gentle slope downhill from there, but sadly Casa de mi Padre never manages to clamber back up.

David Neary

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Casa de Mi Padre is released on 8th June 2012

Casa de mi Padre – Official Website

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The Other Guys

The Other Guys

DIR: Adam McKay • WRI: Adam McKay, Chris Henchy • PRO: Patrick Crowley, Jimmy Miller • DOP: Oliver Wood • ED: Brent White • DES: Clayton Hartley • CAST: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg

The Other Guys is a pleasantly surprising way to finish a summer brimming with apathetic mediocrity. Breaking the cycle of half-baked, over-loud, gross out, themed comedy capers, this police buddy comedy manages to subdue its instincts just enough for it to be absurdly funny without becoming tediously bizarre.

Director Adam McKay is no stranger to predominantly silly comedies, principally his collaborations with Will Ferrell, the most memorable being Anchorman. But this ‘Cop-medy’ differs as it tries to ground itself, to some extent, in reality. This is aided by a moderately sensible plot and some convincing character backgrounds. It’s not a serious film, but elements of realism emphasize the parody and satire.

Ferrell is wisely/mercifully unleashed in restrained bursts, and for the most part plays it straight as the more reserved (albeit weirder) of the pairing. This sedation of character means the occasional eruption of his ‘Gator the Pimp’ persona never loses its raucous appeal. The Other Guys acts as proof that Ferrell still has the capacity to have the masses in throws of laughter. The key, it seems, is smaller doses.

Without question, the film’s success is down to one man; Mark ‘Marky Mark’ Wahlberg. He convinces as a moody, cynical foil for Ferrell’s occasional overt enthusiasm (to put it diplomatically), while his constant aggression, spliced with an obviously sensitive soul, makes for an understandably frustrated cop, and the source of the vast majority of the film’s big belly laughs.

To The Other Guys’ eternal credit, the very notion of an adolescent mastering ballet, and the harp, for the sole intention of persecuting other boys who show genuine interest in the arts, is inspired. Boys are that mean. And take pride in their craft.

Michael Keaton almost steals the show here. Keaton has been almost forgotten recently, particularly his forte for humour. But don’t forget the man was Beetlejuice, and this comedic talent shines through. Playing the frustrated, eccentric Police Captain, who is forced to moonlight in Bed, Bath and Beyond (so his college-bound son can explore bisexuality), Keaton’s screen presence never fails to induce a giggle or three, specifically his inadvertent referencing of TLC lyrics.

Admittedly the message gets a bit muddled in The Other Guys. It claims to praise the mundane, everyday sluggers who plow through thankless jobs from 9-5. This is difficult to swallow considering the central protagonists get blown up, fight off an armed biker gang and manage the notable feat of downing a helicopter with some well placed golf-balls!

This confusion can be forgiven, especially considering the action is passable enough, provides context for some hilarious back and forth between Ferrell and Wahlberg, and it wouldn’t be much of a ‘blockbuster’ unless it busted some blocks. The criticism still stands however: For a poignant message regarding everyday heroism, look elsewhere.

Why were you looking for depth in an Adam McKay film in the first place.

The Other Guys boasts arguably McKay’s best direction to date, the most satisfying version of Will Ferrellism yet, and a supporting cast who are obviously having a blast. The sense of fun and excitement is infectious, and despite its flaws, it’s a vehicle for a performer I think we would all like to see more of, Marky Mark.

Jack Mc Glynn

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Other Guys
is released on 17th September 2010

The Other Guys Official Website

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Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost

DIR: Brad Silberling • WRI: Chris Henchy, Dennis McNicholas • PRO: Jimmy Miller Sid Krofft, Marty Krofft • DOP: Dion Beebe • ED: Peter Teschner • DES: Bo Welch • CAST: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel, Jorma Taccone

The current trend has veered towards making children’s movies that appeal to adults on some level, finding a way for parents to enjoy what is basically a kid’s ride. Land of the Lost seems to attack from another angle, attempting to make an adult fantasy movie with ‘silly bits’ thrown in for the kids. Whilst this makes for some funny moments, the overall effect is disjointed and unworkable.

Falling between the two stools of adult nods and childish crassness, the movie trucks along at a fairly lacklustre pace, never really getting off the ground in terms of excitement or humour – two staples of the ‘summer blockbuster’ cinema experience. The comedy veers between slapstick and referential – going completely over children’s heads on the one hand, and frustrating adults on the other. A sample twenty minutes of the movie gives a sequence where the characters eat hallucinogenics and trip-out, replete with Jimi Hendrix soundtrack and moronic ‘stoned’ conversations. The next scene has one of the characters being ‘pooped’ out of a dinosaur. As a film aiming for either audience, this erratic bouncing hits neither.

In saying that, there are some funny flashes – Danny McBride, as Will, is consistently amusing, and provides many of the movie’s laugh-out-loud moments. Will Ferrell, as the madcap scientist Marshall, delivers his usual pastiche, but it would really be nice if, at some stage in his career, he made a movie where he played a character as someone other than himself. Funny and all as his bumbling ‘great-scottery’ is, it makes for monotonous viewing at times. Anna Friel makes the transition to big screen quite well, if not particularly memorably, as beautiful lab-assistant Holly. In fairness to Ms. Friel, there’s not a lot of meat to the role, but I doubt if Hollywood will be banging down her door based on this movie. Simian slapsticker Chaka is played by Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumni Jorma Taccone, and it’s in his interaction with Ferrell and McBride that the movie gets the majority of its comedy. However, again, the comedy is more SNL than KID, and makes some of the humour awkward and jarring.

Enjoyable though certain points are, what begins as a promising popcorner ends simply as an overextended and overstretched comedy sketch, coming across more as spoof of the time-travelling genre than anything else. While there are undoubtedly funny moments, all-in-all the movie just can’t make it on any one platform – neither as adult fare, nor as something the kids will fully enjoy.

Sarah Griffin
(See biog here)

Rated 12a (See IFCO website for details)
Land of the Lost is released on 31st July 2009
Land of the Lost – Official Website

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