I consider myself quite the expert in comedy in film over the past 20 years or so, with many comedy classics lining my DVD shelf. But one thing that has always intrigued me more than anything with comedians is their acting ability. Now, I'm not suggesting Messrs Martin, Carrey or Williams can't act, but what's most intriguing is that when they take a risk or two, more often than not, their stars shine even brighter.
Will Ferrell has been trying such things lately, with his hugely underrated performances in Everything Must Go and Stranger Than Fiction. He like the others, has never been one to shy away from a challenge, and has decided to go one better: a comedy film in another language. Spanish to be exact, a language that Ferrell has himself admitted he knows nothing of. Talk about your all-time challenge. But a challenge completed with flying colours, and from it comes the year's funniest film so far.
From the moment Ferrell begins his Spanish opus, he is as absurd and silly as he ever has been. As Armando, this could arguably be his best performance since Anchorman. Yes, he has been great in Step Brothers and The Other Guys in between, but in those he shared the laughs with cohorts Reilly and Wahlberg. Here, he is Will Ferrell, the loveable goof whose ridiculousness and absurdities have captivated millions, cranked up to 11. He naturally gets the best lines, the guns, the sex and even "bloody" Bengal Tiger as a Prophet, but what is most remarkable is his grasp of Spanish, which while not flawless, is as good as it needs to be for this one.
In fact, in many respects, Casa shares a lot in common with Anchorman. We get a musical number, in true Spanish/Mariachi-style, and whose lyric "Why does the turtle move so slow?" is standout; a love scene which may well turn out to be the funniest scene of the year; and a huge showdown with the key players. Add to that some brilliant riffs on Westerns and classic Spanish films (fake backgrounds, fallen down sets, missing reels), and the best/worst mechanical tiger in recent memory. All that this is missing was a surprise Frat Pack cameo or two, particularly Ben Stiller's Spanish-language news anchorman from the aforementioned. Perhaps in the sequel.....
Ably supporting are Y Tu Mama Tambien co-stars Diego Luna, as Armando's drug-peddling brother Raul, destined to bring around the "descrucion de la familia", and Gael Garcia Bernal as the drug lord known as La Onza. Both respected actors, both Spanish heroes, but here sending themselves up superbly, and both just enjoying the ride, as do Genesis Rodriguez and Efren Ramirez (Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite).
Sure, it's not perfect: it is essentially an SNL sketch dragged out to feature length, and even at a lean 85 minutes run time, the movie does sag a little in the mid-section, but its charm and warmth see it through, and you can't help but enjoy the ludicrousness up on screen. In an age where comedians step outside their comforts for something new, Ferrell has upped the stakes as only he can. Bravissimo!!
Will Ferrell goes Spanish in this year's most unexpected comedy...