March 16, 2012 at 9:15 AM ET
REVIEW: There has to be a comic point to it all, right? Will Ferrell wouldn't just decide to learn Spanish to make an English-subtitled telenovela spoof on a whim. Surely it must all come together in an entertaining and hilarious story?
Not exactly. "Casa de mi Padre" is a confusing spoof of different film genres mixed in with one-note characters who all lack Ferrell's natural goofy charm.
Ferrell stars as Armando, the lesser son of a Mexican rancher, who must save the day when his brother Raul (Diego Luna) gets the family mixed up with a drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal). He carefully pronounces his Spanish dialogue as if he's an honors student making a student film, but in either language, there's no real sense that he has a plan here.
The jokes feel random -- a broad spoof of a telenovela stereotype here, a bloody "Kill Bill" style shootout there, a discomforting, unfunny joke about the death of Armando and Raul's mother. A roomful of sexy maids in tiny uniforms serve the men of the family, but there doesn't seem to be a joke there either, they're just a weird bit of eye candy. Ferrell wants to play his one big sex scene (with beauty Genesis Rodriguez) for laughs, adding in endless shots of naked butt-groping and substituting a mannequin for one of the partners as things heat up. But those twists feel like they were just chosen out of a comedian's handbook, not flowing naturally from some Guffman-esque universe.
Audiences who keep trusting Ferrell to get them to the point will be disappointed, as the film is neither raucously funny or quietly sly. "Casa de mi Padre" wants the audience to feel that they're in on the joke, with blatantly fake backdrops, an animatronic big cat, and one scene where an apology for not creating a better fight scene scrolls down the screen. But the strands never tie up.
If this were a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, it might have played out in two funny minutes, but the film goes on for 86. Ferrell can do so much better.