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From SXSW to Your Local Theater, (Part 1): Casa de mi Padre

Written by , published March 16, 2012

During the past few evenings, I’ve had the good fortune to catch some of the biggest SXSW Film comedy premieres. The first one is Casa de mi Padre, the telenovela spoof starring Will Ferrell.

Before I describe Casa, a little backstory: As much as I wanted to see this film, I had nixed it from my movie list because it had only one screening scheduled at Alamo Drafthouse Lamar at 5 p.m. Alamo Lamar has the reputation of being one of the “hard-to-get-into” SX-theaters because the auditoriums are smaller (the largest room seats 220, whereas the Paramount Theatre holds 1,200) and its south central location is just s SX Film-shuttle away from the Convention Center. But while checking seating availability online for another film on Virtual Status Board (vsb.sxsw.com), I noticed that there was a 7:15 showing of Casa. Alamo Lamar happened to be on my way home and it was just after 6, so I popped in to inquire about the screening. It happened that there was such a huge turnout for the 5 p.m show that a last-minute second show was added. Since the added screening was not on the film schedule, few people knew about it, and everyone in line got in, including ticket-buyers without badges or passes.

Filmed in Spanish with English subtitles, Ferrell plays Armando, a not-so-bright rancher of his father’s farm in Mexico. (Farrell, who doesn’t speak Spanish, had to learn the script and Spanish in a month.) His brother Raul, a successful businessman and his father’s favorite, returns home to introduce his beautiful fiancé to the family. It is soon revealed that Raul’s business involves drug-trafficking and is wanted by La Onza, a drug lord. To complicate matters more, Armando is smitten by Raul’s fiancé, and finds himself having to save Raul and the ranch. The use of patently fake backdrops, scale-model setups for wide-angle scenes, and animatronic wild animals, along with Ferrell’s brand of outright shameless silliness, only adds to the absurdity. Diego Luna plays Raul, and Gael Garcia Bernal plays La Onza. Both actors starred in the indie hit Y Tu Mama Tambien. While the subject of border violence is no laughing matter, I felt the film’s conclusion put a light-hearted, and even positive spin on improving border relations.

The film has just opened in limited release, and judging from audience response at the screening—loads of chuckles but few belly laughs, it’s probably not going to be a blockbuster like Talladega Nights or even Anchorman.  But I’m betting on the film achieving high cult status.

Look for my next post on Bernie, starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine, , directed by Richard Linklater and based on a true story about a small-town murder.

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