“Sometimes I wonder why I put myself thru so many movies. It’s an addiction I swear. I see a free afternoon and I just hafta cram in a trip to theater, even if the available options don’t particularly excite me. Today, I was torn between Jeff Who Lives At Home and Casa De Mi Padre. I chose Casa because it seemed like the more unique film, and I’d be more likely to wanna watch Jeff at home on DVD if I miss its run.
On the surface, I thought this film would either be ghastly or genius. I didnt think middle ground was possible, but that’s exactly where we landed. Kinda continuing this weekend’s theme of unfulfilled potential, although in this case it was more a string of experiements, some of which worked and others that didnt.
My general thought on Will Ferrell is that I prefer him in featured bit roles, not leads. But while I was watching this, I realized I should revise that statement. I prefer him when he has set boundaries. In those smaller parts, he’s limited by his lack of screentime. In films like Stranger Than Fiction, where he takes a more serious turn, he’s limited by the genre. Here, he was limited by the language. Because this was a Spanish speaking role, Ferrell was really reined in from his usual mayhem, and frankly I think that’s much better for him. He had to really commit to everything he did and really think it thru rather than just cutting loose and playing around. While his absurdities do occassionally have moments of brilliance, I tend to find that for the most part he crosses the threshold of awkward.
What I also loved about Casa was the subtle visual humor. Normally, I’m not a fan of sight gags, but again I made a realization that leads to a revision of that generalization. I dont like sight gags when they’re the center of the comedy. Here, it was more understated, almost an after thought, and that’s what was genius. They weren’t calling attention to the obvious inconsistencies or the “”badly”” used props. Those bits were this close to fading into the background, which made them effortlessly effective.
I dont particularly get homesick, but I do appreciate the occassional reminder of home, which is another factor I enjoyed. Getting to practice the language as I tried to translate before reading the subtitles, or some of the visuals of the costumes and the area. No, that’s not exactly what home looked like, but you do find traces of old Mexican culture in Laredo. A big part of what Casa is is a parody of those over the top telenovelas. I may have watched a few here and there growing up, depending on the housekeeper that was around at the time. I remember there was one called Carrusel that we watched a lot. Well, I dont remember anything about it (except one episode where this one kid was rubbing lotion on his face in an attempt to make his skin white) just that there was a time when we had a daily appointment with the tv for that show. The point is I have just enough familiarity with the genre to appreciate a lot of the humor in this film. Another running joke was small budget effects, which culminated in an absolutely fantastic animal fight scene. I will say no more.
We talked about Will Ferrell a bit already, but I did love the rest of the cast. You had your go to B listy Mexican boys: Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, both of whom I continue to adore. Really liked Luna’s more bad ass than usual character. Took it just to the edge of caricature, without going too far off the deep end. Genesis Rodriguez was simply stunning as the leading lady. She’d caught my attention in Man on a Ledge with her sassiness, and here she owned the screen far more than any of her costars.
I left the theater mildly impressed but not necessarily satisfied, but in thinking back on it, really all I’m seeing are the positives. I really think I need to think about getting more sleep before getting to more movies.
Casa De Mi Padre – \m/ \m/ \m/