I can recall those of us watching referring to him as “that annoying guy.”
The dreaded Spartan Cheerleaders sketches he used to do with Cheri Oteri, another cast member I was never too fond of, were overly long and never that funny. For myself, the continuing antics of “Craig and Arianna” brought the show to a stand-still, despite some great guest hosts (Robert Downey Jr., Jim Carrey) appearing in the sketches.
Funny how my thinking about Will turned around about the time his bare naked ass was running down the street in a brilliant performance in Old School (2003). With Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004), Ferrell’s status as a comedy force was complete.
Around the same time there were the SNL sketches that still stand among their funnier for both clever, uncomfortable writing, and a remarkable creepiness. The Love-ahs featured a bearded Will and Rachel Dratch as Roger and Virginia Clarvin, a middle-aged, educated, academic couple, offering far too much information regarding their sex lives.
Roger and Virginia Clarvin
Purportedly in love with one another to the point of a grotesque display of verbosity and stories, often ending with tales of orgies, they would carry on in front of whichever guest host they happened to be entertaining for the weekend. Usually naked in a hot tub eating spiced meats, there was also the classic Christopher Walken episode where everyone was sitting on a back patio. Walken, amazing as always, reacted brilliantly to the Clarvins’ tales of lusty Greek food such as Mousakka running down their chins and swimming with their “bodies browned by the sun”.
By the time of the incredibly hilarious Stepbrothers (2008), Will Ferrell was on a full tilt genius drive as a comedic actor (as was his co-star John C. Reilly).
Unquestionably, Ferrell was now up there with the great post SNL actors to have made it big in cinema. Yet, while not hitting a home run out the park with every film, he certainly is someone in comedy with projects that I look forward to. He’s not only funny and obviously not afraid to go for the cheapest of low brow laughs, he’s also a creative risk taker, and that’s a rare trait that places him in line with other great comedians of the past.
So how much risk taking is there when your newest film is a comedy entirely in a non-English language?
Usually it’s the subtitles that will push away a larger mainstream American audience, although being entirely in Spanish and spoofing some of the massively popular Univision and Telemundo network’s soap operas as well as their late night screenings of ’60s and ’70s Mexican western films, would probably make Casa de Mi Padre a huge hit for viewers somewhere, right?
That was the intention, as the film was in fact financed by NALA Films (North America Latin America Films) one of the larger Latin American media companies, and distributed by Pantelion Films, which is a partnership between Lion’s Gate Entertainment and Televisa. Basically, from the start this was a project primarily meant more for Latin American audiences and less for the typical Will Ferrell across the board release.
All the more reason I had to check out something as off the radar and headed for cult status as it turns out this films really is.
A gritty prologue sets up the film with a typical dusty western flair, and then the opening credits of Casa de Mi Padre have everything I live for in a classic genre title sequence: A cool and colorful animated homage to some of the greatest of Spaghetti Western openings. Heaven has arrived!
In the starring role, Will Ferrell could not be more awkwardly serious and tremendously goofy as Armando Alvarez, a shy rancher working on his father’s beloved, although struggling property. Visiting is the father’s favorite and successful son Raul (Diego Luna) who brings with him his soon to be bride, the enchanting Sonia (Génesis Rodriguez), and a promise of making everything better for the ranch. For Armando however, at the risk of angering his father and ostracizing himself from the ranch, he knows that all is not as it seems on the surface and trouble has arrived.
The casting is among the many highlights of the film. Napoleon Dynamite’s Efren Ramirez as one of Armando’s best pals Esteban, Gael Garcia Bernal as sleazy drug lord Onza and especially Génesis Rodriguez, who in her previous roles in Latin American soap operas becomes one of the standout performers of the film and a truly magnificent comic foil match for Ferrell.
I particularly love the attention to the tiny details the creators of the film used that are inherent in the actual low budget works that are spoofed, with random choppy editing, absurd asides, and a psychedelic spin.
All for the betterment of the film, the cliched action, low brow laughs, a fantastic soundtrack, dance numbers, gratuitous nudity, ridiculous dialogue and shoddy props and sets take the movie down an even funnier path than I was expecting.
Casa de Mi Padre is a film that I will be recommending to friends for years. Those of us who went, as well as the small audience in attendance, were laughing a lot. The film is a riot and despite some reviews being less than kind, as I expected, I have nothing but high praise for Will Ferrell’s latest film as well as the latest viewing of his uncomfortably disturbing, naked ass…