When a giant movie star ditches the big budget that typically characterizes most major Hollywood productions in favor of shooting a low budget passion project performed entirely in Spanish, people typically take notice. Especially when that movie star is Will Ferrell, one of the world’s most popular comedic actors.
His newest Spanish language film, Casa de Mi Padre, opened in select theaters this past weekend in the hopes of receiving nationwide expansion in the coming weeks. This week members of the Lara Media team went to see Ferrell’s new film and we are happy to report that it was hysterical. Not only was the film entertaining but the audience demographic for the film split equally between Latino viewers and viewers of other ethnicities. Since opening last Friday, the film has already grossed an encouraging $2.5 million dollars from only a couple hundred venues signaling the film’s appeal to all kinds of people, regardless of age or ethnicity.
With a budget of $6 million the film is a significantly smaller scale endeavor than anything Ferrell has attempted in the past, but it is also his riskiest. Despite the fact that Hispanics represent the fastest-growing minority group in the United States according to the U.S. Census bureau, with a population of over 50.5 million counting, this demographic frequently finds itself underserved by most major media outlets. (www.census.gov) In 2011, only a few dozen Spanish-language films received distribution here in the US, including Pedro Almodovar’s critically-acclaimed The Skin I Live In. Not that any of this mattered to Ferrell or his production team, who set out to make a comedy that lovingly ripped off the standard telenovelas that air daily on stations like Univision and Telemundo.
In an article with the New York Times, Will Ferrell revealed it would be funny “not to have the joke be that [he spoke] bad Spanish, but that [he] actually spoke as proficient Spanish as [he could] muster” with “everything played really straight.”
Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, a rancher whose family becomes embroiled with a violent drug lord. Well-known Mexican actors Gael Garcia-Bernal and Diego Luna lend their talents to the film as well as newcomer Genesis Rodriguez. Despite taking Spanish in high school and college, Ferrell required a crash course in the language in order to adequately prepare for the role. Luckily, flawless Spanish speaking skills weren’t a requirement as the shakiness of Ferrell’s accent added to the jokiness of the film.
Although the film was always destined to be a hard sell for audiences, the Casa de Mi Padre team received full financial support from the Santa Monica company Nala Films, who have produced other films like Steve Carrell’s Dan in Real Life. Nala Film’s CEO and president Darlene Caamaño Loquet told New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff that to them “the definition of Hispanic or Latino themes is not the same as the general entertainment mind-set.” In financing and distributing Casa de Mi Padre, “the goal is to make mainstream movies that have people that sound and look like [Latinos], because we [they] are the mainstream.” In acknowledging the impact and importance of the Latino market, Mrs. Caamaño Loquet helps demonstrate what I can only hope is a continued trend in making films and other forms of entertainment that overcome language boundaries and enter the realm of mass entertainment. If the response to Casa de Mi Padre is any indication, we can expect to see more of these types of films in the years to come!
Also, our office needs to learn this song, pronto!