WHEN YOU watch Will Ferrell in "Casa De Mi Padre," the word that springs to mind is: Cojones.
Even if you're not Ferrell's biggest fan, you have to admit the guy's got some huevos grandes.
He stretched to play an alcoholic in "Everything Must Go," and has made wildly absurdist contributions to "Eastbound and Down" and the unclassifiable "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie."
Necessity is the mother of Ferrell's reinvention. Hollywood turned down his pitches for "Anchorman 2" and a few other tentpole ideas, so the comic found himself with a lot of free time.
One idle night, parked in front of the tube, he found himself watching a Mexican telenovela, and thought it might be funny to star in one.
Again, Hollywood didn't think so - a Spanish-language comedy with an American star? They said no. But Ferrell found the money and the distribution, and now here it is, "Casa De Mi Padre," one of the strangest additions to the Ferrell ouvre. Probably too strange for mainstream tastes, but a movie sure to have a cult-movie afterlife.
The only thing I can compare it to is "Black Dynamite," a low-budget comedy that distinguished itself by posing as a straight-faced replica of a 1970s blaxploitation movie, rather than an exaggerated spoof.
"Casa De Mi Padre" has the same vibe. It not so much a send-up of the telenovela (or low-budget Mexican western) as a clone, right down to the purple prose, overripe performances, the lousy production values.
In the middle of it all is Ferrell, speaking his Spanish lines with the flair of an earnest high school student (the badly translated subtitles are in-jokes for bilingual viewers).
He plays Armando, the incompetent second son of a wealthy Mexican rancher whose favored older boy (Diego Luna) is supporting his lifestyle and gorgeous fiancée (Genesis Rodriquez) by distributing illegal drugs.
The impossibly soapy story has Armando falling for his brother's gal (brace yourself for Ferrell's extended nude scene), while all three run afoul of a competing drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal), a plot thread that builds to a "Scarface"-like finale. One day, there will be bilingual debates about whether Ferrell's accent is as bad as Al Pacino's, but there can be no debate as to who gets the goofier wardrobe. It's Ferrell, hands down.
The drug war killed 12,000 Mexicans last year (check out "Miss Bala"), and there's not a lot that's funny about that. "Casa De Mi Padre" seems aware of this, and gives Bernal a blistering monologue about the drug-war culpability of American consumers.