** (out of four)
Will Ferrell’s absurd delivery constitutes much of what makes him hilarious. So the actor speaking Spanish, no matter how enthusiastic his declaration of “Quiero la muchacha!,” risks minimizing the laughs that the big galoot can’t generate with his face and often-unclothed body. And since the posters for “Casa de Mi Padre” claim it’s the “funniest movie you’ll ever read,” clearly co-producers Ferrell and Adam McKay (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”) expect most of the audience to need the subtitles.
The problem: This occasionally amusing, feature-length skit doesn't give enough people enough funny lines to say in any language.
Back in “Step Brothers” mode as a disappointment compared to his brother Raul (Diego Luna), Ferrell stars as Armando, a rancher who accidentally killed his mother as a young boy. (Feel free to let me know in what culture that's funny.) With no female prospects despite a bevy of beautiful maids at his house, Armando cares more for baby cows than women until Raul’s fiancé Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez of “Man on a Ledge”) displays an appreciation for Armando’s romantic streak.
Often “Casa” giggles at the low production values and melodramatics of Mexican telenovelas. Sometimes the relatively restrained movie (by Ferrell standards) just thinks it’s funny because it’s in Spanish. Frequently the deliberately cliche Western wastes time telling a story about Raul's war with a rival drug dealer (Gael Garcia Bernal, Luna’s co-star of “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Rudo Y Cursi”), at which point the movie barely counts as a comedy. Maybe writer Andrew Steele (“The Ladies Man”) thought Ferrell’s presence would keep things light at all times, but a mid-wedding ceremony massacre tends to darken the mood.
The fundamental joke is not so nice either. Whether Armando and Sonia sing a song consisting only of the word “La” or a DEA agent (Nick Offerman) asks, “Do you speak American?,” ignorance toward Mexican culture serves as the main punchline without many characters or jokes to question, rather than encourage, racism and sexism.
By now movies like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” should have established the poor judgment of pointing and laughing for 90 minutes only to close with, “Lesson learned. No hard feelings?”
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