Casa De Mi Padre Review
The MovieCasa De Mi Padre is an affectionate Hollywood take on the telenovela, a melodramatic staple of latin language television akin to soap operas, but with a finite end rather than the perpetual existence of soaps. Set south of the border in Mexico, Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) is the idealistic son of Miguel Ernesto (Pedro Armendàriz Jr), a rancher who sees his boy as the runt of the litter compared to his successful brother Raul (Diego Luna). But Raul's business is drugs, and when he arrives back at the struggling ranch he brings with him his girlfriend Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez) and a whole heap of trouble in the form of Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), a rival dealer who wants to shut down his competitor.
Ferrell's longtime Saturday Night Live collaborator Matt Piedmont directs, with the script written by Andrew Steele, another SNL alum. The film doesn't get off to the best of starts, as the Spaghetti Western-style title sequence is scored with an overblown Bond-esque song (belted out by Christina Aguilera) which is a little too on the nose, and the following scene is as funny as your average funeral. Thankfully, it gets better. In the best spoof movie tradition the cast play it dead straight for the most part, letting the absurdity of the story and the playful nods to cheap filmmaking do their job. This is not a laugh-a-minute film but there were enough yuks to keep me interested, most of which stemmed from the deliberately hokey staging rather than the writing itself. There are crude painted backdrops, a tacky animatronic mountain lion and lots of terrible continuity errors.
It's got a certain charm to it though, precisely because of that reliance on practical effects. There's too much of an emphasis on CG these days, even for simple things like bullet hits, and Casa De Mi Padre - shot on a shoestring of $6 million - shows how visceral those old-school techniques really are. The bloody bullet impacts are deliciously messy, the movie veering off into mexsploitation territory as it reaches its bloody climax, and the anamorphic 35mm photography gives it that classic shallow-focus Panavision look. Some shots even carry the infamous squeeze effect where everyone looks just a little bit fatter than they should do.
What also works in the movie's favour is that they don't push the mickey-taking as far as they might've otherwise done (even if the above video seems to indicate otherwise), and the honest adherence to the Spanish language for the dialogue is part of that. And the image isn't suffocated by a barrage of fake film damage, though there are some intentionally bad drop outs and choppy edits, plus a bizarre segment where the film just stops and the '2nd Assistant Cameraman' offers his sincere apologies. But many of the other flubs tend to happen in movies anyway (like the crew being reflected in sunglasses), and it's an aspect which isn't relied upon for gag after gag after gag.
Those gaps are filled in by the performances which have a surprisingly earnest quality, with only a little of the standard 'awkward idiot' schtick that Ferrell usually brings to the table. If anything it's Bernal who tries his hand at being the bumbler, yet he doesn't quite have the comedy chops to pull it off. The meagre running time helps to push proceedings along, as some may feel that this is a bog-standard SNL skit stretched too thinly as it is. That's not an unwarranted complaint, but for this reviewer the movie has just enough steam to get it over the line.
Casa De Mi Padre was never likely to threaten the big hitters on Señor Farrell's resumè - in terms of laughs or box office numbers - yet it's enjoyable in its own limited way, and is certainly better than some of the clunkers that he's put out over the years.
The DiscStudiocanal's platter is locked to Region B and begins with forced trailers for Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, that daft Joan Collins Snickers advert, Bobcat Goldthwaite's God Bless America, and The Guard. The main movie is presented in the original Spanish language audio with burnt-in - i.e. non removeable - English subtitles.
Shot in good old-fashioned anamorphic and finished on a 2K DI, the film looks splendid on this AVC encode. The 2.35 widescreen image offers up bags of fine detail, characteristic anamorphic softness aside, with very little grain and solid blacks. As I mentioned before, they resisted the temptation to dirty up the picture with fake dirt and scratches (aside from the animated titles) so it looks very clean. Contrast can run fairly hot, with cloudy skies blown out into a sheer white backdrop, but I don't doubt that that's intentional. The colour adheres to the modern standard, with a predominance of orange, but thankfully it stops short of turning every shade of blue into teal, as the blue skies look as they should. The saturation of the colour is excellent as I spotted no banding whatsover throughout the show. And there are no other compression problems to report.
The 5.1 audio is similarly competent, presenting a deceptively powerful mix that also shuns any overtly conspicuous attempts to dumb it down, with some hiss and a couple of pops only occuring in the flashback scenes which are staged to resemble a movie projection, complete with whirring projector in the rear speakers. This lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track has a real sense of heft and solidity to the low end, and enough headroom to capture Ms. Aguilera's title song vocals without distortion. The music itself is clean and detailed.
When the gunshots start to fly they have a palpable whip-crack quality that seems to be lacking from audio mixes these days, and they often zing around the room with pleasing accuracy. The rears also get called into action during Armando's 'mountain lion' scene, as the voice of the beast booms from the surrounds, and the following 'vision' scene is so raucous it's almost overwhelming, finishing with an almighty wallop of bass. Dialogue is extremely well balanced, being as intelligible during the quieter moments as it is during the shootouts. It's a very good mix, not consistently active but when it kicks into gear it'll clean out your ears.
The extra features aren't as numerous as they are on the bigger budget Ferrell vehicles, but there's some half-decent stuff here nonetheless, and it's all presented in HD. There's a semi-serious 15-minute Making Of which features behind the scenes footage, a couple of outtakes and some interviews with the cast, and in true Ferrell tradition they're all still carrying on the joke. Pedro Armendàriz Jr - who passed away in late 2011 - gets a whopping 3 minute interview, with terrible sound.
The selection of 10 Deleted Scenes are comprised of new scenes and extensions to existing material, running 19 minutes in total with a timecode at the bottom of the screen. Some of them are quite serious in tone and seem to belong to a different film, while others have a bit more silliness, including the stereotypical 'boom mike falling into shot' scene. There's an assortment of Fake TV Ads for some of the 'brands' seen in the film, like Escorpion Beer (seen in the top youtube clip). The Fight For Love Music Video on this disc is the same as that seen in the youtube video above. Last up is the Trailer.
OverallCasa De Mi Padre didn't set the cinematic world alight, barely clawing back its miniscule budget at the box office, and yet it's got a certain sweetness that ensures its not a one-note joke. This Blu-ray edition es muy bueno, with respectable A/V quality and a handful of decent extras. Worth a rental at the least if you're a fan of the Ferrell.
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