Matt Piedmont’s impish telenovela spoof Casa De Mi Padre belongs to a small but endearing subset of genre pastiches like Black Dynamite, Grindhouse, and Hobo With A Shotgun, films that pride themselves on faithfully reproducing the grimy, dated look and feel of whatever they’re spoofing while reveling in low-budget phoniness and hilariously transparent fakery. Casa De Mi Padre takes place on sets specifically designed to look cheaper and faker than any studio back lot. It’s populated by characters that laugh long and lustily for no discernible reason, and it features “wild animals” that look like they were purchased from a cut-rate toy store. Its commitment to cheeseball verisimilitude extends to shooting the film almost entirely in Spanish, even though superstar gringo Will Ferrell is the lead.
The deliberately miscast Ferrell stars as the naïve, virginal idiot son of a prominent Mexican family who discovers, to his horror, that his debauched smarter brother (Diego Luna) is a prominent drug dealer at war with a rival played with lip-smacking villainy by Luna’s Y Tu Mamá También co-star Gael García Bernal. Everyone regards Ferrell’s idiot man-child as a well-meaning dope, but when his family is threatened, Ferrell rises to the challenge while simultaneously courting his brother’s gorgeous, hot-blooded fiancée.
As with Black Dynamite, many of Casa De Mi Padre’s sharpest, most inspired gags riff on the source material’s ingratiatingly amateurish production values and exuberantly incompetent stylistic choices. It’s a supremely meta-movie that never stops reminding audiences they’re watching a film, and a spectacularly silly one at that. Director Matt Piedmont and Ferrell previously worked together at Saturday Night Live. Unsurprisingly, Casa Di Mi Padre intermittently feels like an ingenious sketch or killer trailer, extended to feature length. Even more than most of Ferrell’s comedies, this one is featherweight and inconsequential, but at 83 minutes, it never wears out its welcome. It’s slight but savvy enough to know exactly how far to stretch a thin but ultimately clever conceit.