Will Ferrell's latest film, Casa de mi Padre, may have fans of the comedian's alcohol-fueled frat flick Old School scratching their heads. In the peculiar comedy, which hits theaters this weekend, the Anchorman star plays Mexican cowboy Armando Alvarez, delivering each line earnestly and impressively in Spanish — a language he hasn't spoken since high school. (Watch a trailer below.) How exactly did this "extremely weird" film come about? Here's what you should know:
What exactly is this movie?
Casa de mi Padre is a Spanish-language pastiche that pays homage to and spoofs Spanish telenovelas, Hollywood westerns, and Monty Python-esque films. Nearly all of the dialogue is in Spanish and subtitled. The flick centers on Ferrell's cowboy who, along with his brothers, tries to save his father's ranch in the midst of a drug war. Ferrell and his co-stars, Y Tu Mamá También's Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, play the entire thing "unflaggingly straight," no matter how ludicrous the situations — which include acting in front of a painted scenic backdrop, a music video sequence, and a sex scene that adheres to the script's simple stage direction: "They finally kiss and they passionately make out, and then it is the longest montage of butts ever."
Why did Ferrell make this film?
"It's literally to provoke questions like that," Ferrell says, explaining that the absurdity of an American actor making a Spanish-language film was too funny to pass up. "People say, 'What do you have coming out next?' 'Oh, this movie I did entirely in Spanish.'" The idea has been in Ferrell's back pocket for almost seven years, coming to him after he stumbled on a telenovela during a round of late-night channel surfing. He drafted former Saturday Night Live writers Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont to help him fast-track Casa de mi Padre after hearing that another studio was working on a similar idea.
And he learned Spanish
He sure did. Prior to the shoot, Ferrell spoke the language at a rudimentary, high-school level — which just wouldn't have worked. "If the joke was just me speaking bad Spanish, then I think you cross over a line that's not acceptable," Ferrell says. So starting a month before the shoot, the comedian worked with translator Patrick Perez four times a week. Once filming started, the two were inseparable. "We would drive there together and drive home together, and we would work on that day's lines, and then driving home, we would work on the next day's lines." When Ferrell promoted the film on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night talk show, both Ferrell and Kimmel made it through the interview entirely in Spanish.
Is the movie any good?
It depends who you ask. USA Today's Claudia Puig hails Ferrell for his brave, genius idea, calling the movie "decidedly offbeat," "absurdly daffy," and above all, "very funny." Really? asks Ty Burr at The Boston Globe. At best, "it's a solid short film stretched to Silly Putty thinness."
Will it be a hit?
If it is, it would be a modest one. It's only opening in 382 theaters this weekend, compared to 21 Jump Street's 3,121. Though Ferrell is traditionally a big box office star, his forays outside mainstream comedy — Everything Must Go, Melinda and Melinda — "have not exactly caught fire with audiences," says Karina Longworth at LA Weekly. But the film might just be a hit with the Latino community. "The Latino market in the U.S. doesn't want to see films made just for Latinos," says Casa de mi Padre distributor Paul Pressburger. They want to see mainstream Hollywood movies "that have something about them that resonates with Latinos." Casa de mi Padre may be that film.