Sunday, March 25, 2012

Se habla español en Casa de Mi Padre

tatiana de la tierra

Overdramatic and cheesy, Casa de Mi Padre is a Spanish-language Hollywood creation that uses Mexican cowboys and narcos as props for a multi-layered parody. The movie stars Will Ferrell as Armando Alvarez, the useless meathead son of a Mexican rancher who vows to save his father’s land from Onza, a flashy drug lord who reigns in the area. Co-starring are Mexican actors Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Miami native Génesis Rodríguez.

While it’s not to be taken seriously, this movie makes fleeting statements about cocaine consumption in the U.S., self-aggrandizing drug dealers, Mexican stereotypes, the DEA, bumbling peasants, conniving women and salt-of-the-earth men. Yet it’s not about any of this at all. More than anything, it’s a film thrown together to stretch out that surreal feeling you get from a telenovela with hyped up characters and overdone close-ups.

Meaningless as it is, I thoroughly enjoyed a few scenes. My favorite took place at night around a campfire, with three cowboys (who are unto themselves a spoof of The Three Stooges) singing their hearts out. With lines like “I am friends with the cows” and “Why is the turtle slow? I don’t know,” “Yo no se” is a quirky and campy moment that works. Another scene that stood out was a slow-motion massacre at a wedding. A romantic ballad from the 70s plays as wedding guests meet their grotesque end. Dressed in white and splattered with blood, the bride is tragically framed as reference to la Virgen de Guadalupe. The scene ends with the close-up of a white rose dripping with blood.

Played by Génesis Rodríguez, Sonia is the feminine central character with a charming knack for floating on the screen. I was able to appreciate her exaggerated femininity and seductive ways as she cruised atop a horse, waded into water, and sang a silly “La la la” song. Will Ferrell pulled off his dimwitted yet hopeful character well as a Spanish-speaking cowboy. Incredibly, his diction is about as good as everyone else in the movie. That’s because Casa de Mi Padre is a slow flick, way too slow. All the characters are wooden stereotypes to the point that a gringo fits right in with them. Which was probably the point of the movie to begin with.

But for me, the biggest thing about Casa de Mi Padre is how it ended up becoming a film in Spanish with English subtitles. Written by Andrew Steele from Saturday Night Live, this is a gringo creation for a Latino and gringo crossover audience. Reminiscent of 1970s exploitation films, the movie was made in 24 days for six million dollars. Génesis Rodríguez and Diego Luna’s backgrounds as true telenovela veterans add authenticity to the film. They are, in essence, parodying themselves.

While slow and terribly thin, Casa de Mi Padre makes me wonder how far the Spanish language will go in Hollywood. Bring it on, I say. Estamos listos.

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