Casa de mi Padre probably would have been awesome had Jim Abrahams been handed the reigns. The creator of Airplane! and The Naked Gun could have sent up the western and Telenovela’s with a glaring eye towards their unique faults and appeal.
For Casa de mi Padre, it’s almost too affectionate for the source material. The film isn’t spoofing so much as it is recreating the cheekier qualities. This is a film with Will Ferrell in a lead Spanish speaking role, but plays itself almost entirely straight. Comedy isn’t found in the writing (when it is, it’s fleeting), but the surroundings and filming mishaps left on screen.
The problem? That’s only worth a smirk. Low rent Z-level film is funny because either the circumstances or general lack of care created some film-wasting atrocity that lives on through the ages. Placing a straight generic western – with a gun slinging, drug-fueled romance – in front of cheap backgrounds or blatant continuity errors doesn’t work. You can’t create camp, and yet filmmakers continue to dive into that well.
This material isn’t wasted; there’s too much affection for the style and genre archetypes to completely write it off. Glancing over acted looks, extended laugh takes, randomly inserted musical numbers (where no one is actually playing an instrument despite holding them), and shots determined to show dead people breathing are all worth a snicker. Part of the appeal is zoning in on the mistakes and trying to find them all. There’s a lot at play.
Still, Casa doesn’t seem to grasp what it has: Will Ferrell in a Spanish film. There’s so much riding on that casting that never comes to fruition, and that is – easily – Casa’s greatest sin. Material exists around Ferrell, not with him, and the whole thing feels like a marketing tug, not an honest attempt to do something different. There’s nothing “Ferrell” about this, from his charms to his over reactionary schtick.
Part of that is undoubtedly expectation, with so much promise that is tossed to the wayside. Parodies are genuine fun, but Casa is too content to roll with the creaky filmmaking gimmick, not wry comedic timing. At 78-minutes for the feature sans end credits, it feels drawn out and stretched beyond capacity. You can only include so many painted backgrounds before wearing thin.
The challenge for this AVC encode lies entirely on the grain structure. Casa regularly features heavy spikes, most of which create a breakdown of the compression. At the peak(s), the grain is situated carefully, lightly glazing the image enough to be noticeable. In a way, it’s almost detrimental to the idea of the film being cheap; it’s too clean. Those moments of rambunctious grain almost add a charm, if a visual block for the HD viewer.
Color timing casts a path of destruction across anything not steering warm, taking it out and making it so. Desert suns are brutal to flesh tones, and so are most of the exteriors. Reds, already under the gun, will bleed slightly as they struggle to be maintained. A dinner sequence with the family (who apparently counts Molly Shannon in their ranks) has plenty of reds to handle, including a table cloth. It’s a tough one to manage, and it must be smeared beyond recognition to anyone who sets their TV to “vivid.”
Regardless of the issues, there’s plentiful detail to admire, from extended close-ups to lavish high living mansions. Delineation is spectacular at times, and sharpness is top shelf material. Even with lens distortion at work to stick with the gimmick, there are still elements of the image that holds to the high-end integrity.
Black levels bunk up with a clean, weighty contrast to create an image with depth, and consistently so. There are no instances where either side takes a downward spiral to appear flat or washed out. Night or day, those dual elements work together to keep things in check and appealing.
Despite a third act shoot-out, the level of activity in this DTS-HD mix is soundly in the gutter. The key moment comes during an oddball dream sequence/trip where flashbacks and jumbled thoughts are given visual representation. Sounds begin swirling in multiple directions, and odd key music can swell to fill in the surrounds too.
Casa opens on a grand musical cue (undoubtedly swiped) with awesome fidelity and presence. The rest is chintzy and subdued to better match the supposedly flimsy production values, meaning little reason to fill up the surrounds. It would have been nice if the fidelity were lessened or knicked just a bit to better convey the idea. As it is, the whole thing is modern with meager mixing.
Director Matt Piedmont, writer Andrew Steele, and Will Ferrell come together to host a commentary track, the best thing here. A making of (15:43) is a little padded as it delivers the general rundown and shock that the project even got off the ground. A trio of deleted scenes run on for nearly 20-minutes, and three in-character commercials pitch various fake products. Pedro Armendariz Jr. is celebrated via his final interview, captured before his death in December of 2011. Will Ferrell and Genesis Rodriguez pump out a musical number to mark an end to the bonuses.