It’s hard not to think of Napoleon Dynamite while watching Casa de Mi Padre, not only because that movie’s ubiquitous Pedro—Efren Ramirez—co-stars along with Will Ferrell, but also because the humor is similar: It’s that hard-to-explain blend of strange, quirky, juvenile and deadpan. In that, it’s much funnier to recall the movie later, or maybe to see it a second time, than it is to watch it the first time around.
But the big news about this movie is that it’s almost entirely spoken in Spanish, and that includes Ferrell, who apparently learned enough of the language to get by. He plays Armando, the earthy, arrested-development son of a Mexican rancher whose flashy brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with a sexy new fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez). Unfortunately, Raul is involved with a local drug dealer (Gael García Bernal), potentially bringing shame to the family name.
Ferrell and his crew of Saturday Night Live alumni designed Casa as a vague spoof of any number of cheap Mexican soap operas and/or grindhouse movies. It has no easy target—and often no particular target at all—which only adds to the peculiarly pleasurable humor. The fake sets and horses and arrhythmic comedy timing have an indirect effect. They conjure up an uneasy silence, until it hits you a beat later just how bizarre it all is, and how hard the comedians are trying to not try to make you laugh. Call it a funny aftertaste.