Mexican cow-wrangler Armando (Ferrell) lives in the shadow of his macho brother, Raul (Luna). But when its revealed that Raul is in trouble with a deadly narco (García Bernal), Armando seizes the chance to saddle up and prove his worth.
A connoisseur of American idiocy, Will Ferrell has portrayed pumped-up jackanapes from coast to coast: Bay Area blowhard Ron Burgundy, Southern car-twit Ricky Bobby, NYPD bumbler Allen Gamble... Now the comedy superstar heads south of the border. A sun-scorched spoof of Latin American telenovelas, with the odd riff on Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, Casa De Mi Padre isn’t prime Ferrell, but it’s funny and novel enough to be worth a watch.
The main talking point is that the movie is entirely Spanish-language, except for some amusingly shaky English from its star near the end. As ranchero Armando Alvarez, Ferrell commits to Español without winking (he learnt his lines phonetically), playing the big-hearted Mexican with such earnestness that you actually start to root for him. And, considering Armando is embroiled in a plot which at one point takes in a wrestling bout with an animatronic lion, that really is quite a feat.
The problem is the tone, shakier than the lower lip of gorgeous, troubled love interest Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). At points Casa comes off like a milder Grindhouse, with shonky model cars, clearly fake horses and a ¡Three Amigos!-style campfire sing-along. But at other times the production values soar, as if its makers feared audiences would miss the joke. It’s all a little too unfocused: the title song, crooned by Christina Aguilera over slick Bond-style visuals, is nice but unmemorable, while Gael García Bernal’s cartel boss doesn’t have the zingers to match his zeal.
When it hits, it hits hard. There are several vignettes destined to become YouTube classics, including a lengthy effort by Armando to mount his horse and a hysterical sex scene which outs the cameraman as having a serious buttock fetish. In the end, though, 85 minutes proves too long to sustain the joke. Along with Ferrell, Judd Apatow and Adam McKay, director Matt Piedmont is one of the players behind comedy-short website Funny Or Die. Our dial swings into ‘Funny’ territory for this one, but not as far as we’d have liked.
Often inspired but patchy overall, Ferrell's horse opera could have benefited from a sharper, even more out-there script. Grade-A assplay, though.