04 March 2012

Will Ferrell Tackles Spanish for Casa de Mi Padre

I was never a fan of Will Ferrell. I'm one of those people who believes Saturday Night Live went downhill after the days of Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner, with a brief resurrection during the days of Dana Carvey and Mike Myers. One Christmas, when I was home in Los Angeles for the holidays with nothing to do, my family roped me into watching Elf starring Will Ferrell.

Against my will (no pun intended), I sat down in the living room, prepared to walk out of the room if the movie got to the point of being unbearably stupid. I never left the room. It wasn't as stupid as I'd thought. Barring the eye-roll inducing goopy romantic moments, I actually thought the movie was funny, and I've even watched it again a couple of times since that first time. But I've never seen another Will Ferrell movie since then -- I've never been tempted to, and no one's suckered me into doing so. Until I heard about Casa de Mi Padre.

For one, I am in love with Gael García Bernal, and I want to marry him. If that ever came true, I would promise to speak Spanish every day and go back to church every Sunday.  (Isn't that what a good Mexican does?) I first discovered Gael in The Science of Sleep, although most people know him for his role in Y Tu Mamá También.

Second, I am intrigued by the concept of creating a "deliberately awkward and oddly paced skit," as described by the Casa de Mi Padre's director and screenwriter in coming up with inspiration for the film. Much like watching Will Ferrell take himself so seriously as an elf, it will be interesting to see him take himself seriously as the son of a Mexican rancher. Not that elves and Mexicans have much to do with each other, except in the case of the Gnombre, the "loveable Hispanic garden gnome."

And Gael approves of the use of comedy in this movie, so it must be good. Let me know if you see Casa de Mi Padre and tell me what you think of it!

Excerpts from the original NY Times article, "The Universal Language of Will Ferrell" published by Dave Itzkoff on March 2, 2012:

Shot in 24 days on a budget of about $6 million, “Casa de Mi Padre” tells the story of Armando Alvarez (played by Mr. Ferrell), the ne’er-do-well son of a Mexican rancher whose manhood is tested when he falls in love with the fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez) of his flashier brother, Raul (Diego Luna), and is drawn into a violent conflict with a drug baron (Gael García Bernal).

If that sounds like the plot of a garden-variety telenovela you might see playing on a cheap TV in a corner of your Laundromat, that is exactly the point.

“For some reason,” Mr. Ferrell said, “it just hit me that it’d be really funny not to have the joke be that I speak bad Spanish, but that I actually speak as proficient Spanish as I can muster, and everything is played really straight.”

Mr. Ferrell could not pinpoint more precisely where the idea for the movie came from, except to say it had been bouncing around his head for several years.


Darlene Caamaño Loquet, president and chief operating officer of Nala Films, said that while she and the company’s chief executive, Emilio Diez Barroso, with whom she founded the company, have Hispanic backgrounds, they do not specifically look for films aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences.

“To us,” Ms. Caamaño Loquet said, “the definition of Hispanic or Latino themes is not the same as the general entertainment mind-set.” She added: “Our goal is to make mainstream movies that have people that sound and look like us. Because we are the mainstream.”


Mr. García Bernal, who is Mexican, gave Mr. Ferrell high marks for his Spanish pronunciation, comprehension and vocabulary of swear words. Though the film deals in stock subjects like Mexican drug dealers and corrupt American border police, Mr. García Bernal said he was never concerned that it was mocking his native country or culture.

“There is no such thing as respectful or disrespectful,” he said. “There is good humor or bad humor. And there’s people that make stupid, not funny, racist jokes, and there’s people that play with the race issue in a very joyful and jovial way.”

Mr. García Bernal added: “If we stop and judge every single film the same way, then there’s no film that is safe from the highest morals. It’s a comedy, and in a comedy you can treat touchy subjects as well.”

Click here to read the entire article.

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